The brave convoy of competitors at the 2017 Silk Way Rally have finally reached the midpoint. More than 5,000km has been tackled between Moscow and Urumqi with action coming thick and fast on the route through Russia, Kazakhstan and China.
Quick to assert himself in the car race was Sébastien Loeb of Team Peugeot Total. The Frenchman and his Monegasque co-driver Daniel Elena have controlled the rally since the opening stages and the duo enjoy a lead of over an hour.
Loeb and Elena’s nine World Rally Championship titles transformed the pair into motorsport legends, now they’re proving they can be equally dominant at rally-raid events. Next up for the pair are the dunes of the Gobi Desert which separate their current location of Urumqi from the race’s finish line in Xi’an.
“Now we’re looking forward to the Rest Day here in Urumqi: we have some media commitments tomorrow but we’ll also get a chance to relax before tackling the second half of the rally.” – Sébastien Loeb
Loeb’s closest competitors are his Peugeot team-mates Cyril Despres and co-driver David Castera. Despres has battled back for some missteps along the route and despite being nearly 70 minutes behind Loeb he knows from experience that anything can happen in the second week. The third Team Peugeot Total crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret are still in the fight for stage wins after recovering from rolling their car during the first few days of racing.
While Loeb remains in the early stages of his rally-raid education he is joined on the overall podium by another newcomer to the discipline. American offroader Bryce Menzies has been going about his business with determination and was rewarded with a stage win yesterday. Today Menzies and co-driver Pete Mortensen opened the 436km route to Urumqi and cruised to a third place finish on the stage. It’s so far so good for the duo competing in their first two-week rally-raid.
“Now we’re at the Rest Day and the body and mind definitely need it.” – Bryce Menzies
The turnaround in the truck race by Team Kamaz Master after some disappointing early stages has been nothing short of remarkable. Stage wins are now being chalked up on a daily basis by the Russian team and it seems only a matter of time before they have three trucks parked on the overall podium. For now though Kamaz can reflect on a week of hard work and their reward at the Rest Day is having Dmitry Sotnikov in the outright lead.
“As we move closer to the desert things are going to keep getting hotter. This is going to have a big impact on the race and we’ll be working hard to ensure our team don’t suffer.” – Dmitry Sotnikov
With drivers taking a day off from driving their mechanics will be giving each car and truck still in the race a comprehensive tune up ahead of the Silk Way’s second week. For Loeb and Sotnikov the upcoming task is to protect those leads, for the chasing pack it’ll be about calculating risk on the road to Xi’an
Car Race General Classification after Stage 8
1. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) Peugeot 21h10m16s
2. Cyril Despres (FRA) Peugeot +1h08m41s
3. Bryce Menzies (USA) Mini +1h42m32s
4. Wei Han (CHN) Geely +1h52m59s
5. Christian Lavieille (FRA) Baicmotor +1h53m20s
14. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) Peugeot +3h41m30s
Truck Race General Classification after Stage 8
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz 23h29m34s
2. Anton Shiblov (RUS) Kamaz +9m54s
3. Martin Kolomy (CZE) Tatra +20m26s
4. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz +27m06s
5. Artur Ardavicius (LTU) Iveco +1h18m48s
6. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz +2h18m04s