Red Bull Desert Wings prepare for dune landing at Silk Way Rally
The 2016 Silk Way Rally has entered its third and final country and the race pace shows no signs of slowing down. Having conquered testing terrain in both Russia and Kazakhstan the Silk Way convoy is currently locked in an intense battle over the sands of the Gobi Desert in China.
In the car category there are a pair of Peugeot 2008 DKRs having their own race at the very front of the rally. Cyril Despres has the lead after 10 stages, but team-mate and fellow Frenchman Sébastien Loeb is less than 10 minutes behind. The nearest competitor to this duo is a further 18 minutes back from Sébastien in the general classification.
Cyril and Sébastien have both been benefitting from the performance of the third Team Peugeot-Total driver in the race, Stéphane Peterhansel. The 12-time Dakar winner suffered a spectacular crash on stage five of the Silk Way and since then has been committed to helping his team-mates secure successful results for the team. A stunning one-two-three result on stage nine showed that all three Peugeot drivers are capable of increasing the gap currently enjoyed by Cyril and Sébastien. The team will be after more stage wins and an overall race victory to toast when the finish line is crossed in Beijing this Sunday.
Carlos Sainz, the fourth member of Team Peugeot-Total, is also in action this week as he competes in the three-day Baja Aragón in his native Spain. Carlos will be pitted against fellow former Dakar Rally winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Nani Roma as he looks to give the home crowd plenty to cheer, and possibly contribute to a double celebration for Peugeot this weekend.
Back in China the Silk Way truck race has five more stages to contest before reaching Beijing with Team Kamaz Master looking to overhaul overall leader Martin Van Den Brink. The Dutchman is currently being chased down by a quartet of Russian trucks as Kamaz occupy four spots in the top five. 2015 Dakar winner Ayrat Mardeev is the closest to the leader with a gap of under five minutes between them. Just like Peugeot’s tactics in the car race, Kamaz are intent on working as a team to ensure one of their machines is on the top step of the podium in the Chinese capital this weekend.
Today’s stage from Dunhuang to Jiayuguan features nearly 200 kilometres of timed racing with plenty of scope for charging up the leaderboard. Dunes will feature early in the day before mountain tracks take competitors to an altitude of 2,500 metres above sea level. The immense challenges for both man and machine at the Silk Way are a long way from being over and the speeds only appear to be getting quicker.