Sébastien Loeb is relishing the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the new Team Peugeot Total when the Silk Way Rally gets under way.
The Peugeot is new and improved from the one in which Stéphane Peterhansel proved victorious in January’s Dakar Rally and Peterhansel will be bidding for his first Silk Way win along with teammate Loeb while third team driver Cyril Déspres begins as the defending champion.
Ahead of the event, which gets under way today (Friday) from Moscow’s iconic Red Square, Loeb said: “It’s nice to be here with the new car – the first time driving in a rally with this one.
“It will be interesting to compare, and we hope this car is better than the other one. I’ll try my best to be competitive.”
Loeb is adamant the team will not push too heavily at the start of the event with a 10,000-kilometre course ahead of him and his rivals on the course.
But the Frenchman believes there is an area en route where Peugeot can gain a sizeable advantage on their rivals.
He added: “My car’s strongest point is its ability off-piste. We should be able to attack the dunes of the Gobi Desert in total confidence.”
Among the chasing pack is American Bryce Menzies in his first two-week rallying raid.
photo-video-description”>Alexey Shabanov / Red Bull Content Pool
On the eve the event start, Menzies said his goal was simple: “We’re hoping to be on this rally for 16 days so the first aim is to reach the rest day and then we can see how we go from there.”
In the event’s truck race is Team Kamaz Masters’ Ayrat Mardeev, the Russian saying before taking to the start line: “We don’t have the option to under-perform because our whole country is watching us and wishing for us to win this race.”
Mardeev and Kamaz face opposition from legendary Dutch truck driver Gerard De Rooy with Iveco over the course, which last 14 stages, with the finale on 22 August.
header image: Florent Gooden / DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool