The first days of the arduous Silk Way Rally running from Russia to China via Kazakhstan have seen powerful performances from the biggest names in the race. Team Peugeot-Total have already picked up all stage wins on offer in the car race while Team Kamaz Master have also surged into an early lead in the truck category.
It has been a game of cat and mouse at the front of the car race with Peugeot team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres taking it in turns to win the stages so far. Stéphane set the fastest time on the prologue as well as during yesterday’s 568 kilometres of timed racing between Kostanay and Astana. Cyril meanwhile celebrated a stage win on Monday as the Silk Way left Russia and entered Kazakhstan. The fact that both drivers have suffered punctures while opening the road the day after stage wins underlines the severe navigational challenges that exist at this race.
It’s been a steadier ride for Sébastien Loeb, who drives the third Peugeot 2008 DKR at the Silk Way. The nine-time WRC winner sits third overall after three days of measured attacks and lies 2min51s behind Stéphane who has claimed the outright lead of the race. Cyril is a further minute behind Sébastien in fourth overall following this impressive start to proceedings by Team Peugeot-Total.
Team Kamaz Master are also giving their fans plenty to cheer about with six crews parked in the top six positions in the race. The Russia truckers have demonstrated unrivalled pace in the first days of the Silk Way with former Dakar Rally winners Eduard Nikolaev and Andrey Karginov both collecting stage wins. Eduard’s new Kapotnik truck proved unstoppable on yesterday’s stage (the longest of the entire rally) as it not only took the stage win but also ended the day topping the general classification.
Eduard enjoys an advantage of 5m34s over Andrey ahead of today’s stage between Astana and Balkhash as the Russians sit first and second respectively in the truck category.
The next two days of racing at the Silk Way will all take place in Kazakhstan before competitors take a well earned rest day in Almaty on Friday.
Stéphane Peterhansel: “The first 60 kilometres or so were muddy and very slippery, but also lots of fun. There was quite a lot of navigation again and, running some way down the start order, we were at an advantage because the trail had already been blazed. That said, the mud thrown up by the cars ahead of us made visibility quite difficult. However, we reached a top speed of around 185kph at one point despite the conditions being far from ideal. Our car is going well.