Cyril Despres and David Castera led a Team Peugeot-Total top three lockout after Stage 9.
Today’s leg of the Silk Way Rally reached the halfway point as the teams and crews were met with sunshine and searing heat since the rally entered into China.
Despres and Castera claimed their fourth stage win on today’s desert test, consolidating their place as overall leaders of the Silk Way for a fifth consecutive day.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were the next Team Peugeot-Total crew in second after suffering a scare 27 kilometres into the stage after being stuck on a dune. His team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret managed to help Loeb and Elena in their Peugeot 2008 DKR break free from the dune.
They did make up the time to finish second after the stage, but remained over twelve minutes behind the lead Team Peugeot-Total crew of Despres and Castera. Peterhansel and Cottret rounded out the podium, finishing third on Stage 9.
Despres said after Stage 9 “It’s never easy to decide how to approach a stage when you know you’ve got string of dunes waiting for you straight in. We were under a little pressure but everything turned out well in the end and we were fastest again!
“We caught Sébastien when he was stopped on the way up the last dune which meant we were first on the road after that. For the moment, things are going well for us and we’re winning at a rate of one stage in two. It’s an exhilarating feeling but we can’t afford to throw away caution. Our car was perfect today.”
Loeb spoke about tackling the dunes, saying “We were a little apprehensive ahead of the dunes because things didn’t necessarily go our way on this type of terrain on the Dakar in January. We saw Yazeed (Al Rahji) take an impressive dive after a crest just in front of us. My reaction was to brake and we got stuck in the sand. We lost about 10 minutes and Daniel even thought our rally was over. A huge ‘thank you’, therefore, to Jean-Paul for helping us to dig ourselves clear!
“After that, we pushed very hard in order to make up ground and we ended up with the second-fastest time – so you can tell we weren’t hanging about! It wasn’t easy to keep up that sort of pace, but driving like that was tremendously satisfying. We’ve dropped a little time to Cyril overall but we’ve pulled further clear of the guys behind us. The main thing is to play for the team and hopefully we will be able to finish first and second in Beijing!”
Peterhansel added “It’s been some time since we last contested a stage that was entirely over desert terrain. The landscape was superb. After the start, we waited for Cyril and we then helped Sébastien get going again after he got stuck in sand at the top of a dune. Jean-Paul dug like a madman for around 10 minutes. We ended the stage in the dust thrown up by Al Rajhi’s car and we were unable to pass him. We’re a long way down the leaderboard, but it’s very satisfying to be able to help our team-mates and play a part in their success.”