New Peugeot 3008 DKR leads pack in Silk Way Rally
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France's nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb has demonstrated the performance of Peugeot's new wide-body 3008 DKR Maxi rally raid contender during the opening week of the Silk Way Rally.
The 9600km marathon from Moscow's Red Square to Xian in China saw Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena set the fastest time on four of the eight special stages and build a lead of more than an hour during the first week.
The rally first travelled through Russia, followed by four days in the canyons and mountains of Kazakhstan before entering China and a rest day on Sunday in Urumqi.
The competition was set to resume on Monday afternoon (NZ time), beginning the 4000km run to Xian that will include six more special stages.
Loeb's commanding leading margin at the rest day was 1h 08m 41s over his team-mate Cyril Despres (France) driving the previous specification Peugeot 3008 DKR.
Peugeot is using the Silk Way Rally as a back-to-back test opportunity for the wide-track Maxi version of the 3008 DKR ahead of the 2018 Dakar Rally.
The Geely SMG Buggy of China's Han Wei was holding fourth place overall at the Urumqi rest day. Picture / Marian Chytka/Silk Way Rally
American offroad racer Bryce Menzies posted one stage win during the first week -- the only non-Peugeot driver to do so -- and was third at the rest day driving an X-Raid Mini Countryman at 1m 42m 32s behind Loeb. China's Han Wei in a Geely SMG Buggy was fourth overall.
Two leading drivers will be looking to climb back up the rally standings after delays during the first week of the event.
Reigning Dakar Rally champion Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot 3008 DKR) of France and Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi (X-Raid Mini Countryman) reached the rest day holding 14th and 20th places overall.
Peterhansel won the second stage of the rally and led overall before rolling his Peugeot in stage four. He lost more than two hours before an assistance truck arrived and he was able to resume the race.
The Russian Kamaz-Master team is leading the T4 Truck category with Dmitry Sotnikov out in front at the end of the first week. Picture / Marian Chytka/MCH
After a steady approach to the opening days, the Russian Kamaz-Master team has taken control of the Truck category. Dmitry Sotnikov leads the T4 Truck class and is sixth overall in his Kamaz 43509, with a lead of almost 10 minutes over Kamaz team-mate Anton Shibalov with the Tatra of Czech driver Martin Kolomy holding third place a further 10mins behind.
There were 46 crews still remaining in the event at the mid-way rest day. This week six more stages will take the rally to finish in the ancient Chinese city of Xian -- the historic starting point of the Silk Road -- including stages in the dunes of the Gobi Desert in northwest China.