By Rosie Ogden
Team Peugeot Total’s Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres overcame the exceptionally varied challenges thrown at them by the China Silk Road Rally, to collect a one-two finish for the Peugeot 2008 DKR at the end of the 5,442-kilometre event.
The team enjoys a successful motorsport record in China, including endurance racing wins with the Peugeot 908 at Zhuhai in 2010 and 2011. This year, the team returned to the brand’s biggest market to take on – and win – a challenge of a very different sort: the China Silk Road Rally. This cross-country rally, which ended on Friday, September 11, will go down in Peugeot Sport history as the backdrop not only to the Peugeot 2008 DKR’s maiden victory but also to a resounding one-two result.
En route to picking up the top prizes at the finish in Dunhuang, Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret and Cyril Despres/David Castera completed 2,000 kilometres of competitive action, plus a further 3,479km in liaison sections, in the course of the two-week event.
Peterhansel appeared at the top of the leaderboard on the second day and maintained his strong pace to add six more stage victories to the Peugeot 2008 DKR’s maiden stage success on SS2. He went on to collect his first win on this rally, a month after celebrating his 50th birthday.
The one-two finish was the first major result for Despres on four wheels. Ever the perfectionist, the studious ex-biker made progress every day along with his new co-driver Castera. The pair’s determination was rewarded with their first stage victory on SS11, followed by another on SS13. Their consistency saw them move up to second place on Day 4, after which they succeeded in defending their position until the finish.
The long route was extremely varied, although the rhythm was interrupted by the cancellation of Leg 3 and by timetable changes to give the organisers time to check that certain portions remained practicable despite the downpours that fell over the region during the rally.
The rally featured vast expanses of occasionally huge sand dunes, as well as fast, flowing sections, river beds, rocks, stones and mud.
The changes that have been made to the car’s technical specification proved competitive and reliable. It has clearly gained in performance over both sand dunes and fast terrain. Some of these modifications will be carried over to the new 2008 DKR 16 which will contest the 2016 Dakar next January.
Bruno Famin, Director of Peugeot Sport said “The aim of coming here was to clock up the kilometres and gain experience, but we are going home with a fine one-two finish in our pockets. I am very proud of the work that our crews put in, as well as that of the team both here in China and back at base in Vélizy.
“Everyone has been working very hard on this project for more than a year and today’s result is a great reward for their efforts, even though our number one objective is still the Dakar, of course. There is still a great deal to be done and the challenge is very complex but it’s nice to have today’s result in the bank!”
Peterhansel said he was “proud and delighted” to have provided the new-generation 2008 DKR with its first cross-country rally victory.
“The last stage was pretty stressful, particularly towards the end. That’s when you start hearing every little noise the car makes. Cyril and David caught us and we ran together to the Stop Control. Looking back, the rally was globally quite long, not exceptionally hard in terms of its distance but great fun to drive, with some absolutely incredible landscapes, including a region where there were both lakes and dunes. Technically, we were hoping for a trouble-free run and that’s what we got.”
2015 China Silk Road Rally – final positions:
Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR
Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) Peugeot 2008 DKR (+ 31mn27s)
Han Wei (CHN)/Pan Hong Yu (CHN) Haval (+ 51mn14s)
Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA) Haval (+56mn34)
Lui Kun (CHN)/Liao (CHN) Mitsubishi Pajero MPR11 (+1h47mn34)