Just as a reminder that the Silk Way Rally isn’t over until the very end, Cyril Despres had a scare today when his leading Peugeot DKR became stuck on the summit of one of the many sand dunes in the second half of the stage. He removed the car using the jack, but the situation was further complicated when he had a problem with the power steering, meaning that he had to continue with no hydraulic assistance. In a perfect example of teamwork, Stephane Peterhansel had waited for him after the start so that they could drive the stage in convoy and solve any possible problems together. This turned out to be very good planning, as they were able to extract Cyril’s car and to continue to the finish with no further problems despite the power steering issue.
While it’s not of any big concern in the overall picture, today’s incident showed that anything can still happen on this rally. Although Cyril dropped close to 20 minutes on the stage, he only dropped 11 minutes to the second-placed driver, as there were problems behind him as well. Obviously it was good that Stephane was running just behind Cyril, which shows our great team spirit: as well as the practical help that he can offer, it’s also psychologically comforting when you’re leading to know that your team mate is close by. From our point of view, we need to figure out why Cyril experienced a power steering failure too: he has sore arms and hands now, but the car was able to keep going and he will be fine for tomorrow after a good rest.
It’s never over, is it? We had a hydraulic leak that meant that our jacks and power steering didn’t work when we got stuck. Normally we would have lost only a minute or so but we stopped and tried to fix it. All four of us – myself, David, Stephane and Jean-Paul – worked hard to find a solution but in the end we didn’t manage to: it’s not so easy in the middle of the desert. There were around 45 kilometres of dunes left to go and our only option was then just to drive to the finish. The car weighs around a tonne and a half, so driving it without power steering is far from easy. My arms and hands are sore but I’m very happy to be here now. And I already know that the Team Peugeot Total mechanics have a solution for this problem. 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. I’m looking forward to starting on a clean page tomorrow.
Everything was going well until Cyril got stuck on top of a dune. We stopped to help him and it wouldn’t have been a big problem, but I think the thing is that during the process of using the jack, which runs off the same hydraulic system as the power steering, the power steering somehow got damaged. And then, if you have no power steering in one of these cars, it’s a big problem. So, we stayed behind him to make sure that he got through last 50 kilometres of the stage with no more problems. I am happy to help make sure a Peugeot will reach Xi’an on top. Apart from that, it was a very beautiful stage, typical of those I really like in rally raid.
The Silk Way was originally a network of trading routes connecting Asia to Europe, named because of the silk (and horse) trading that took place along it. The route has its origins in around 250 BC and was extremely important for international trade.
The penultimate leg of the Silk Way Rally, from Alxa Youqi to Zhongwei, could provide the sting in the tail, as it’s known as ‘the Cathedral of Dunes’. The special stage distance of 318.66 kilometres is split into two sections, with tricky navigation and technical dunes. The crews won’t get the chance to admire the scenery, but it’s also one of the most picturesque days of the whole rally.