Cyril Despres and David Castera extended their lead in the Silk Way Rally to over thirty minutes, ahead of MINI All4 Racing’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk.
Despres produced another perfect run on today’s leg to finish second, behind stage winners and fellow Team Peugeot-Total team-mates Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena despite the Frenchman losing third gear at the halfway stage of the leg.
Loeb and Elena on today’s leg made an assertive run, crossing the finishing line over seven minutes ahead of Despres and Castera. However, the #102 Peugeot 2008 DKR crew missed two mandatory waypoints despite passing them, meaning Loeb and Elena suffered a four-hour time penalty, leaving the Franco-Monegasque pair in tenth place.
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret finished the stage in fifth place, leaving them overall in seventeenth place.
Despres said after Stage 12 “When we set off this morning I had a sort of premonition because the car and the gearbox were making a bit of noise on the start line. We later lost the use of third gear over the dunes while we were looking for the correct heading.
“I’m still learning and it’s only the first time I have suffered a mechanical problem in the 2008 DKR. We did a lot of driving about in the dunes to avoid getting stuck and it was a relief when we reached the bivouac. From the tracks he left, Sébastien was clearly going well and he paid a big price for his mistake. I intend to stay focused for the last two stages and we have the benefit of some great sporting and moral support from everyone at Peugeot Sport.”
Loeb spoke of his frustration missing the two waypoints on Stage 12. “At the Passage Control, we realised we hadn’t collected the waypoint. We drove around for a while to look for it. We thought we’d collected it afterwards but that wasn’t the case. We can’t have been more than 40 metres away. It was a delicate portion with a high number of waypoints all close together.
“It’s very frustrating because we put in a good run despite being first on the road over some difficult terrain, and Daniel coped well with the navigation. We are still beginners and we haven’t yet mastered all the niceties of the GPS. We came here to learn and I believe we had been doing even better than that up to today.”
Peterhansel added “It was another stage with a bit of everything today, from twisty tracks to navigation and dunes. The navigation and the dunes were particularly hard, although the sand was quite firm compared with last year.
“We hesitated a little at the last Passage Control and clearly we weren’t perfect today. We will continue to play our support role and stay close to Cyril through the dunes. That makes life easier for us because it means we can afford to take our time to analyse the road and direction changes ahead. Despite his penalty, Sébastien did a good job today.”
There are two more stages left before the Silk Way finishes in Beijing as the teams and crews head tomorrow for Leg 13 from Alashan to Wuhai.