Jul 24, 2017
Overdrive Racing and the Keeopower Team guided three of their five cars to the finish of the gruelling Silk Way Rally that started in the Russian capital of Moscow on July 7th and finished in the historic Chinese city of Xi’an on July 22nd.
The French duo of Christian Lavieille and Jean-Pierre Garcin led the way to the ceremonial finish in Xi’an in the first of three surviving Baic V8 Proto cars running under the Keeopower Team banner in conjunction with Overdrive Racing. Lavieille reached the podium in a stunning second overall behind the rally-winning Frenchman Cyril Despres.
The Chinese pairing of Binglong Lu and He Sha set several impressive stage times in the second of the Baic Motor BJ4Ols to finish in sixth position. Team-mates Yangui Liu and Hongyu Pan climbed from 13th overall at the rest day but retired in the Gobi desert after an on-stage collision.
The Chinese duo of Zhitao He and Kai Zhao ran an Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux under the Boundless Yong Team banner and reached Xi’an in 12th overall.
Chinese driver Yong Zhou and 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 at the start of the ninth stage to Hami, but the Chinese rolled the Toyota into retirement in the stage.
Overdrive Racing’s CEO Jean-Marc Fortin said: “It was a very hard rally. At the beginning we had the rain and the mud and really hard conditions. It was a case of surviving the first week with a lot of kilometres of liaison.
“For Baic Motors, this is a fantastic result, second place. We could not have expected better. It’s very important for this new challenge and project to win Taklimakan (Rally) and to finish second here in Silk Way in the space of two months. It was a fantastic job from Christian and Jean-Pierre and also the whole Overdrive team who were building and repairing the cars.
“For the Toyotas, and for the rest of the team, being sixth overall was another superb result. I guess, with the exception of the big crash for Zhou it was a superb two weeks for everyone. We are happy to be at the end, because it was very long and demanding. This was a positive result after such a great challenge.”
After a much-needed rest day in Urumqi, following the trek across Russia and Kazakhstan, competitive action resumed on July 17th with a stage of 421km in a day’s route of 813.89km between Urumqi and Hami. It was the most dramatic day of the event so far: Frenchman Sébastien Loeb lost his outright lead after rolling his car and Yong Zhou was also forced out of the rally after rolling and damaging his Overdrive Toyota Hilux.
Loeb’s demise lifted Lavieille into fourth overall in the first of the three Baic Motor BJ4Ols. Team-mate Binglong Lu was pipped to the stage win by multiple Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel, but remained firmly inside the top 10.
From Hami, the route of the Silk Way Rally headed towards Dunhuang. The 10th day of action included a stage of 360.28km in a day’s itinerary of 517.53km. Lavieille, Lui and Lu were fifth, ninth and 10th quickest through the stage that was won by Italy’s Eugenio Amos. The result ensured that Lavieille retained fourth overall, Lu was eighth and Lui was 10th. There were further delays for Zhitao He in the Boundless Yong Toyota.
The 11th stage headed out of Dunhuang and offered 488.65km against the clock in a route of 783.84km to a night halt in Jiayuguan. The first section of 250km through a series of sand dunes was cancelled because the region has become a National Park, but the Baic V8 trio and Zhitao He reached the western limit of the Great Wall of China in strong positions to prepare for the rigours of the Gobi desert the following day.
The desert stage ran for 254.75km in a route of 483.79km to the city of Alxa Youqi. In what many competitors deemed to be one of the most difficult stages of their careers, Lavieille claimed a memorable stage win in his Baic to move ahead of Bryce Menzies into third overall. Lu was fourth on the stage and held seventh place, Zhitao He climbed towards the top 10, but Yangui Lui lost his position inside the top 15 after an on-stage accident.
From Alxa Youqi, the route headed towards the town of Zhongwei and teams tackled a penultimate stage of 318.66km in a day’s itinerary of 690.31km. Lavieille finished the special in third place behind Peterhansel and Despres to climb ahead of Wei Han and into second overall, as Lu was fourth fastest and moved up to sixth.
The final competitive section of the event was scheduled to run for just 100.67km in a day’s route of 716.46km between Zhongwei and Xi’an. But race officials cancelled the final stage because of heavy rain and results stood at the end of the section into Zhongwei, as teams headed directly to Xi’an for the podium.
2017 Silk Way Rally – final positions (T1, T2 and T3):
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