Today’s Chinese stage took in 250 kilometres of varied competitive action, part of a 436-kilometre journey from Karamay over rough terrain. It was a good all-round test of capabilities for the Peugeot DKR, featuring both small sand dunes and rough gravel tracks, from which the cars emerged first, second and fourth to underline their ‘go anywhere’ credentials. Sebastien Loeb had some small tyre pressure issues but this did not stop him from winning a stage for the fourth time this week (out of eight stages completed so far). His performance is even more remarkable, given that he caught Cyril Despres after 50 kilometres and then opened the road for the rest of the special stage. Cyril Despres, who started second on the road, was not far behind him, keeping up a fast and consistent pace. Stephane Peterhansel started further down the field, and had to overtake a few competitors. He was eventually classified fourth on the stage, 15 minutes behind Loeb, despite feeling unwell and struggling a bit with dust and set-up.
Sébastien LOEB, Team Peugeot Total Driver
Winner of stage 8 / 1st overall
“It was another good day for us in the car, although never easy of course. We caught up Cyril quite quickly so we found ourselves first on the road again: a tough time with navigation for Daniel, but he did a good job so I guess we are getting used to it now! It was an interesting mixed stage with some very rough surfaces as well as sand, but it was good that we managed to judge the right speed in these tricky conditions to win the stage because that’s not obvious. The car was perfectly reliable too, and it’s in conditions like this that the Peugeot DKR Maxi shows it’s a good evolution as it feels more stable to drive, which was always the aim. Now we’re looking forward to the rest day in Urumqi: we have some media commitments tomorrow but we’ll also get a chance to relax before tackling the second half of the rally.”
Cyril DESPRES, Team Peugeot Total Driver
2nd of stage 8 / 2nd overall
“Today was the same stage as we drove last year but since then an entire rally has been through it so the roads were really broken up, which meant that we were bounced around all over the place for most of the stage. Seb caught us up at around kilometre 50 but then we managed to stick with his pace, around a minute and a half behind him for most of the stage, although we suffered a bit with the dust. Seb’s a great driver and the Peugeot DKR Maxi seems like a better car! The stage was quite quick today and the art to it is keeping up the speed without falling into all the traps that can catch you out so easily if you’re not super careful. All in all, I’m satisfied; anything can happen next week so we will continue to do our best.”
Stéphane PETERHANSEL, Team Peugeot Total Driver
4th of stage #7 / 7th overall (cars)
“It was not an easy day for me as I was feeling sick and had to stop twice. Under those circumstances, it was quite difficult to drive on these rough roads. I was also caught in the dust of some other cars and it seemed impossible to overtake, so I decided not to force things or take any risks. A slow stage for us, but I was not particularly happy with the set-up of the car on this type of terrain either: I remember this being a problem for me last year here as well. There’s something about the suspension set-up that just doesn’t work for me on this piece of road. Luckily, we have the rest day now, so it’s a good opportunity to recharge our batteries before we come back fighting next week.”
TOMORROW: REST DAY
While there is no driving during the rest day, it's another long and tough day for the Team Peugeot Total mechanics who have to entirely strip and re-prepare the cars for the second half of the rally, which gets underway on Monday. The crews have a number of media commitments, but will also try to fit in as much rest and relaxation as possible before they get going again.