After an 83km run-out, the two PEUGEOT 2008 DKRs lined up for the start of today’s fast stage which promised a menu of stony terrain and some sandy dry river beds. The 11th stage of the event saw Cyril Despres/David Castera claim their first cross-country rally stage victory, despite the fact that they had to spend a big chunk of time in the dust of another competitor. They still went on to beat Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret by 30 seconds after their Team Peugeot Total team-mates picked up a puncture. Peugeot’s fifth one-two finish in China has consolidated its grip at the top of the provisional order with two days remaining. The event has now set up camp in Dunhuang where the rally will come to an end on Friday, September 11. Until then, there are still 384 competitive kilometres to come…
We started at a brisk pace and the stage was good fun. Dry river beds tend to be quite rough in Africa and South America but that’s not the case on this event. Here, they are fast and hazard-free, so they are a real pleasure to drive along. I think this must have been the fastest average speed since the start. About 60 kilometres from the end, I spotted a clump of dirt which looked soft. It turned out to be a sharp rock and we punctured the front-right tyre. It took us five minutes to change the wheel. There are just two days to go…
The sharp rock was just waiting for someone to ride over it, and it turned out to be us! It was effectively a fast stage. There were just two or three delicate junctions but, on the whole, it was really nice.
David and I are beginning to function well together. Noting the time differences with the dust plumes ahead of us allows us to gauge our pace. We soon realised we were on a good day today and that we would be able to benefit fully from the potential of the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR. After 57 kilometres, though, we caught Liu. We took advantage of a zone where speed was restricted to let him know we were just behind him but he didn’t pull over despite the Sentinelle overtaking warning system. We had to sit in his dust for more than 150 kilometres and lost the rhythm we had initially. We still won our first stage but it’s frustrating not to have had a free rein over the full distance. Tomorrow, we will be first on the road…
It wasn’t at all easy running in somebody else’s dust for so long. It prevents you from concentrating and you don’t have any reference points. It’s something else to learn. I have to say that this rally is teaching me so much. We have found ourselves in so many different situations, from driving in front and behind, to fast portions, slower sections, dust, dunes, mud, etc. Cyril and I are working better and better together every day.
1. Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR 2h31mn13s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR +30s
3. Lui Kun (CHN)/Liao (CHN) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR11 +1’28
4. Han Wei (CHN)/Pan Hong Yu (CHN) Haval +2’08
5. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA) Haval +5’26
Overall classification after SS11 (Provisional)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR
2. Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR +27’25
3. Han Wei (CHN)/Pan Hong Yu (CHN) Haval +43’47
4. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA) Haval +54’12
5. Lui Kun (CHN)/Liao (CHN) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR11 +1h15’55