After spending three days in Alxa Youqi, Inner Mongolia, the 2015 China Silk Road Rally has moved 200 kilometres east to Zhangye, its base for two nights. The eighth, 167km stage was an all-sand affair which packed several surprise challenges, including 100km of mammoth dunes. Third and fourth places for the two PEUGEOT 2008 DKRs enabled them to consolidate their positions at the top of the leaderboard. There are still five stages to come, one of which is a two-kilometre super-special on Monday.
It’s been a while since I last saw dunes as huge as that, even in Dubai. Some of them were 200 metres tall! The fact that the sand was quite hard was a help, but you just never know. You can’t help wondering whether you might get stuck up a dead end, or whether there’s a clearer pass somewhere? It wasn’t easy and we preferred to be safe rather than sorry. Lui Kun passed us. He was really fast. Okay, he’s from the region and has 500 horsepower under his right foot, but he’s also a very good driver. Once he was ahead, we did our best to follow him, but we couldn’t. So a big bravo to him!
There were 100 kilometres of dunes; it was like a rollercoaster ride. Given how tall they were, it was best to play it smart and steer clear of taking any risks. We needed a run-up of maybe 300 metres to clear some of them. Thankfully, the 2008 DKR was more at home in these conditions than the other cars, but it was quite tricky because we weren’t on our own. We also had to take the positions of Stéphane, Liu and Christian into account. That can be hard and a collision is always possible. Given the tracks we saw, some of the bikers didn’t reach one crest which was mandatory to pick up a GPS way point.
1. Lui Kun (CHN)/Liao (CHN) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR11 2h29mn52
2. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA) Haval +3’45
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR +7’13
4. Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR +8’03
5. Han Wei (CHN)/Pan Hong Yu (CHN) Haval +9’41
Overall classification after SS8 (Provisional)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR
2. Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR +22’56
3. Han Wei (CHN)/Pan Hong Yu (CHN) Haval +41’48
4. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA) Haval +43’11
5. Lui Kun (CHN)/Liao (CHN) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR11 +1h13’00