Frenchman underlines Dakar potential with back-to-back titles at 10,000km race.
Cyril Despres called his second Silk Way Rally win the “best preparation” for an assault on the title at the 40th Dakar Rally early next year.
The Team Peugeot Total driver rose to the challenge set by his rivals as he reached the finish line of the 10,000km Trans-Eurasian odyssey in first place having tackled the harsh terrains of Russia, Kazakhstan and China.
Victory was confirmed when heavy storms forced the race directors to cancel the 14th Special Stage into Xi’an, with the last 100km instead being transformed into a lap of honor for the competitors.
And Despres, who set off from Moscow on July 7, now wants to add a four-wheel Dakar title to the five two-wheel wins already achieved.
He said: “I’m very happy to continue my progression as a car driver with another win here. Throughout the whole of the rally neither David nor myself made any big mistakes.
“I still think I have plenty to learn as a car driver; there’s still a gap in my speed compared to my team mates, which is something that I would like to make up. But I can see that I’m improving year on year, which is very motivating, as I know that the best is still to come.
“Now we look forward to the Dakar Rally, where we were third last year, so winning here is the best preparation.”
Despite some nervous moments in the Gobi Desert, Despres summoned all of his rally-raid experience to bring the victory home with co-driver David Castera.
With teammates Sébastien Loeb and Stephane Peterhansel being denied top three finishes by crashes, Christian Lavieille and Wei Han took the other podium spots.
Loeb said: “The rally did not end the way we wanted it to for myself and Daniel, but I’m very happy for the whole Peugeot team and especially Cyril and David for this important victory. Now we will continue the development work, using all the important lessons we have learned from Silk Way, in preparation for the Dakar.”
After a tricky start to the rally, Team Kamaz Master found their groove and ended up dominating the truck race.
Once Dmitry Sotnikov took over the lead he never gave it up. He was then joined on the overall podium by teammates Anton Shibalov and Ayrat Mardeev.
Sotnikov said: “Our Kamaz 43509 was so impressive all race and we managed to keep it on the right track. All of our team deserves the victory and we share our accomplishments with each and every one of them. You cannot believe the hard work that this team puts into these races and now it’s time for us all to enjoy this success.”
Images Red Bull Media House