At a much-needed rest day in Urumqi in western China, the French duo of Christian Lavieille and Jean-Pierre Garcin held a fine fifth overall in the first of three Baic V8 Proto cars running under the Keeopower Team banner in conjunction with Overdrive Racing.
Chinese drive Yong Zhou and his experienced French navigator Pascal Maimon were classified in sixth in the T1 category in an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux running under the BP Yong Team banner.
The Chinese pairing of Binglong Lu and He Sha held 10th overall in the second Baic Motor BJ4OL and team-mates Yangui Liu and Hongyu Pan were 13th.
The Chinese duo of Zhitao He and Kai Zhao were forced to miss a section of one stage because of driver fatigue, but they reached the rest day in 20th overall in a second Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux running under the Boundless Yong Team banner.
After a ceremonial start in Red Square in Moscow on Friday, July 7, the route of the event headed through southern Russia towards Kazakhstan and on to China. The opening leg offered a special stage of 61.43km in a day’s route of 726.95km between the Russian capital and Tcheboksary on the banks of the River Volga. Lavieille began well in the leading Baic and recorded the sixth quickest time on the opener. Yangui Liu was 19th, Yong Zhou finished the section in 26th and Binglong Lu was 48th, one place ahead of Zhitao He.
Heavy rain and mud affected the subsequent leg of 785.63km between Tcheboksary and Ufa, which offered a competitive section of 157km. Lavieille maintained sixth place with a similar position on the day’s special and Lui climbed three places to 16th. Yong Zhou, Binglong Lu and Zhitao He reached the night halt in 19th, 34th and 43rd overall.
The Silk Way Rally then crossed into Kazakhstan between Ufa and Kostanay and teams tackled a selective section of 329.25km. It was an excellent day for Yong Zhou in the BP Yong Racing Team Toyota Hilux and the third quickest time behind the vastly experienced Sébastien Loeb and Stéphane Peterhansel lifted the Chinese into 13th overall. Lu and Liu were seventh and eighth quickest, but Lavieille dropped around 10 minutes and slipped to seventh. Zhitao He incurred time penalties and plummeted to 52nd.
The fourth competitive day headed from Kostanay to Astana and offered a competitive section of 373.22km in a day’s route of 908.8km. Loeb extended his lead at the top of the standings, but it was a good day for Overdrive Racing and the Keeopower Team. Lavieille and Yong Zhou recorded the fourth and 11th quickest times and that lifted the Frenchman into third overall and the Chinese into eighth place. Binglong Lu held 12th in T1.
The route for day five took crews out of Astana and on to the city of Semey. It was another long and demanding trek through Kazakhstan and 484.47 of the 849.54km were timed against the clock. Liu carded the fourth quickest time to climb to 18th in the overall standings. Lavieille slipped back to fourth overall in the lead Baic and Yong Zhou was classified in sixth position in the T1 category. Zhitao He stopped with technical issues in the stage.
The battle-weary teams headed from Semey towards Urdzhar on day six. The selective section spanned 387.86km in a day’s route of 597.13km. Lu and Lavieille recorded the fourth and fifth quickest times, Lui was 14th and Yong Zhou was 19th. Zhitao He returned to action to finish the special in 30th overall. Lavieille and Yong Zhou held fifth and sixth in the T1 category.
The seventh stage continued its passage across the vast Kazakh steppe and wastelands from Urdzhar to Karamay in China and offered a short stage of 106.6km in a route of 412.9km. Lui set the fourth fastest time, while Lavieille and Yong Zhou were fifth and ninth.
The Silk Way Rally crossed the Tian Shan mountains on day eight from Karamay to Urumqi, where teams were able to enjoy a much-needed rest day. The stage ran for 250.37km in a day’s itinerary of 436.34km. Lavieille began the day in fifth overall and reached the rest day in a similar position.
Next week, the route heads across the Gobi desert and the wildest of Chinese desert terrain, via Hami, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, Alxa Youqi and Zhongwei, and on to the finish in Xi’an on July 22.