The arduous 10,000-kilometre Silk Way Rally is finally at an end, with the winning drivers taking center stage at the closing ceremony in Beijing, China. The punishing route through Russia, Kazakhstan and China took the race convoy across some of the planet’s most inhospitable terrain, including the towering dunes of the Gobi Desert.
Despres and his co-driver David Castera cruised through the last 261 kilometers of timed racing on the rally’s final stage to secure their overall win. Despres may have won the Dakar Rally five times on a motorcycle, but this is his and Castera’s first ever four wheeled victory. The Frenchmen coped with the pressure of leading the race from the sixth stage until the finish and demonstrated sensational speed to win a total of five stages during the contest.
Despres and Castera’s closest competitors for much of the Silk Way were their Peugeot team-mates Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Daniel Elena. Despite a four-hour penalty for a navigational error, the nine-time WRC champions were able to prove their own progression within cross-country rally. The French driver and his Monegasque counterpart underlined their consistency by recording a magnificent 10 stage podiums.
The third Peugeot 2008 DKR at the Silk Way was under the control of Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. The reigning Dakar champions took an early lead in the rally, but a spectacular crash on stage five saw their chances of a second victory of the year disappear. From there the French duo put themselves at the service of of their team-mates, determined to do whatever it took to ensure there was a Peugeot victory to celebrate in Beijing.
On arrival in Beijing the party was soon in full swing for Team Kamaz Master, who rewarded the throng of Russian fans who waved them off from Moscow with a glorious win. The truck race proved to be a tense contest throughout the 16 days of the Silk Way and there was no time for taking it easy, even during the final stage. Mardeev pushed his Kamaz truck to the limit on the last stage to not only set the fastest time of the day, but crucially secure the overall win. The 2015 Dakar winner was joined on the podium by team-mate Dmitry Sotnikov, while the new-look Kamaz truck of Eduard Nikolaev came home in fourth place.
Everybody involved with Team Peugeot-Total and Team Kamaz Master, from drivers to mechanics, can be immensely proud of what they have achieved at this edition of the Silk Way. Both teams have proven that despite Dakar success in the past, they will not stop the hard work that goes into the search for constantly improving performance.
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