Raging rainstorms have been a regular feature of the early stages of the 2017 Silk Way Rally. The other common occurrence so far at the mammoth Trans-Eurasian race has been the dominance of reigning champions Team Peugeot Total.
Peugeot’s trio of French drivers – Sébastien Loeb, Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres – have locked out the podium on the opening two stages of the race. Their rally-raid rivals have so far had no answer to the sheer power pace of Peugeot’s machinery and the masterful skills being shown behind the wheel.
13-time Dakar Rally winner Peterhansel rose to the top of the general classification thanks to his Stage 2 win, with Stage 1 victor Loeb now placed second overall. Last year’s Silk Way champion Despres rounds off the current top three.
“The opening stage went really well for us and we had a good time. The rain has added an extra degree of difficulty for us all because the mud is making these narrow tracks very slippery.” – Sébastien Loeb
The best of the rest so far has been rally-raid rookie Bryce Menzies who has scored a pair of Top 5 finishes on the first two stages. The American offroader is fourth overall and will look to stay as close as possible to the three Peugeots as the race moves into Kazakhstan tomorrow.
“We’re starting to show what we can do out here.” – Bryce Menzies
Over in the truck race there has been an uncharacteristically slow start by Team Kamaz Master, first on the short 67km opening stage and then over the 157km of Stage 2. The slippery conditions have proved hard to handle for Russia’s Blue Armada. Despite all four Kamaz trucks being outside the early podium places there were signs on the second stage that they still have plenty left in the tank to produce a charge at this two-week race.
“We have total faith in the truck and the team so we’ll stay focused on improving our position.” – Ayrat Mardeev
Tomorrow’s stage presents a big opportunity for any drivers hoping to claw back time with 329km of racing against the clock. The Silk Way Rally will wave goodbye to Russia as it departs from Ufa and makes the journey to Kostanay, Kazakhstan.
Car Race General Classification after Stage 2 (Provisional)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) Peugeot 2h33m31s
Truck Race General Classification after Stage 2 (Provisional)
1. Maaten Van Den Brink (NLD) Renault 3h05m20s
MINI Motorsport Silk Way Rally Leg 2: Tcheboksary – Ufa review
Bryce Menzies (USA) moves up to 4th overall after Leg 2.
Al Rajhi loses time after slipping into a hole.
Munich. Bryce Menzies (USA) and Peter Mortensen (USA) in the #105 MINI John Cooper Works Rally have completed the difficult second leg of the 2017 Silk Way Rally in 4th place overall, despite challenging conditions on the demanding terrain of the Grand Kazan Track.
The highly technical, narrow track of Stage 2 was made even more challenging by heavy rain adding to the slippery grass surface, but the American pairing played it safe for the majority of the day’s race. Their caution paid off, with Menzies and Mortensen moving up one place from 5th in the overall rankings to 4th at the end of Leg 2.
Mortensen: “Stage 2 was very difficult today; there was a lot of rain and a lot of slippery grass fields the same as stage 1 yesterday. It was very tough. We played it cautious at the beginning and made up quite a lot of time but then towards the end we slid off and hit a ditch but the car still ran perfectly, so we just played it safe from there. We ended up 4th so we’re feeling good and looking forward to stage 3.”
The second MINI John Cooper Works Rally pairing of Yazeed Al Rajhi (KSA) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) in the #101 car were less fortunate today as they fell victim to one of the hidden holes mentioned in the day’s race description. With just 30km remaining in the Stage, they slipped into a 2m hole and had to wait for help, incurring a penalty of 05:50:00 and pushing Al Rajhi from 4th in the overall standings to 41st.
Colsoul: “I think it was a big mistake for all of the cars to go on the stage today; it was slippery from the first metre to the last and it felt dangerous. The stage times reflect the difficulties, but we managed. We went off a couple of times but nothing too bad. At 120km there was a modification and in the part that was replaced there was a small hole in the road to the left but there was also a huge crack in the right of the road that was not mentioned. We tried to avoid the hole and then we went into a ditch that we didn’t know was there and, of course, we couldn’t get out. We had to wait for local guys and they needed two tractors to get us out, which cost us 2 hours. It’s a pity.”
Leg 3 will see the competitors cross the border into Kazakhstan as they complete 876.39km, including a special stage of 329.95km, from Ufa to Kostanay.