There was another dose of drama on the dunes during Stage 12 as the 2017 Silk Way Rally refuses to roll over and give the convoy a smooth ride. There were time losses at the front of the car race for both Cyril Despres and Bryce Menzies as problems quickly snowballed under the glare of the desert sun.
Car category leader Despres and his co-driver David Castera found themselves stuck in the section of dunes around 50km from the end of the day’s stage. On this occasion they were able to call on Peugeot team-mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret for assistance to get their car on the move again but then a second problem arose.
When Despres started up his Peugeot 3008DKR the power steering was no longer working and the final 45km of racing required superhuman feats of strength. Crossing the dunes became a real battle and it’s testament to the five-time Dakar bike race winner’s pre-race conditioning that he was able to minimise the time he lost to the chasing pack.
“It was really stressful as I knew that if we had another problem we could be stuck for hours. Honestly, it was one of the toughest days of my whole career.” – Cyril Despres
Playing their part in Team Peugeot Total protecting their lead of the car race were Peterhansel and co-driver Cottret who not only helped dig their team-mates out of trouble but then stuck close by until the end of the stage.
“Cyril had to drive the last 50 kilometres of the stage (with no power steering) and of course we stayed behind him to make sure that he got through with no more problems.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
The car closest to Despres in the general classification before Stage 12 was the MINI belonging to Menzies and co-driver Pete Mortensen. However, the American duo also suffered a tough day with a navigation error and a period stuck in the sand to deal with. The end result has seen Menzies fall off the overall podium positions with just two stages now left to win back the time lost today.
“These are massive dunes and it’s so hard to get through so we knew it was going to be tough.” – Bryce Menzies
Further underlining the difficulty of today’s stage was the 15 minutes lost by truck race leader Dmitry Sotnikov. This was another example of the Gobi Desert claiming a victim as Sotnikov’s Kamaz truck got stuck in the sand. Luckily for Sotnikov his team-mate Ayrat Mardeev was on hand to help get the race leader free and on his way again.
“You must be disciplined with the level of acceleration. It’s so easy to mess things up and taking too many risks can do big damage to your race.” – Ayrat Mardeev
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage of the 2017 Silk Way Rally features over 200km of dunes so expect the desert to have an even bigger say on the contest before the chequered flag falls in Xi’an on Saturday.
Car Race General Classification after Stage 12
1. Cyril Despres (FRA) Peugeot 36h31m47s
Truck Race General Classification after Stage 12
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz 38h16m38s