Rally legend Sebastien Loeb has fallen out of contention for 2017 Silk Way Rally honours after losing his dominant lead with a crash on Monday’s ninth stage.
Loeb, part of a three-way Peugeot squad that entered the event, was the overall leader in seven of the first eight stages, aided by teammates Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres both hitting trouble.
Reigning Dakar champion Peterhansel had been the only driver besides Loeb to lead the overall classification, but he rolled out of contention for the second year running.
Despres, who had run close behind his pair of teammates over the opening three days, also lost time en route to Astana, getting stuck and dropping almost an hour.
Loeb kicked off the ninth day with a gap of more than a minute over Despres, but the WRC legend crashed into a dried river bed.
While Loeb and long-time navigator Daniel Elena could restart after a 2h30m time loss, they were forced to stop again to wait for the assistance truck.
Geely’s Wei Han and X-Raid Mini’s Bryce Menzies, the only non-Peugeot stage winner, are now second and third, 44 and 51 seconds respectively behind new leader Despres.
Peterhansel, who topped Stage 9 despite stopping to help Loeb for around seven minutes, is two and a half hours behind Despres in the overall classification.
Kamaz holds sway in trucks
The Silk Way’s truck category is proving the domain of Russian marque Kamaz, whose crews currently occupy four places in the top six.
Rival trucks had enjoyed a stronger start to the rally as the likes of Martin Kolomy (Tatra), Martin van den Brink (Renault) and Siarhei Viazovich (MAZ) took stage wins early on.
But high attrition rates, including a suspension breakage for frontrunner Gerard de Rooy (IVECO), allowed Kamaz to turn the tide of the race.
Dmitry Sotnikov, who topped three of the last five stages, leads the way, 14 and 26 minutes respectively ahead of fellow Kamaz drivers Anton Shibalov and Ayrat Mardeev.
Kolomy is the top non-Kamaz driver in fourth, the only other driver less than 1h40m adrift.
Source : MotorSport