Loeb leads, Mini snags stage win as Silk Way Rally nears its climax
The Silk Way Rally is entering its final stages, having rolled through Russia and Kazakhstan. Sebastien Loeb is still leading the way in his Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi, but the pack hasn't given up the fight yet. Bryce Menzies secured the first stage win for Team Mini X Raid overnight, inching closer to the second-placed Peugeot 3008 in the process. Here are some of the best pictures from the middle legs of the 2017 Silk Way Rally.
Last time we checked in, Sebastien Loeb was sitting pretty in first place. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the flying Frenchman is still leading the way in his Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi. This rally is essentially a two-week long torture test for the Maxi, which is 20 cm (8 in) wider than the regular DKR, and has a 10 cm (4 in) broader suspension track. Don't be surprised if Peugeot lines up at next year's Paris-Dakar with a fleet of DKR Maxis.
Alongside Peugeot, Mini is arguably the best-known team taking part in the Silk Way Rally. At the moment, Bryce Menzies and co-driver Peter Mortensen have managed to open up a two-hour gap to the fourth-placed Baicmotor team, and sit 34 minutes behind the second-placed Peugeot 3008DKR of Cyril Despres. That sounds like a massive gap, but rallies like the Silk Way are conducted over vast distances in rough conditions. One puncture is all it takes for Mini to be nipping at the heels of the French race leaders.
Although harsh, the countryside through which Silk Way Rally competitors are racing is utterly stunning. Having started in Moscow and wound through Kazakhstan, the rally has now entered China. It wraps up on July 22 in Xi'an, by which point the teams will have covered almost 10,000 km (6,214 mi) of harsh, unforgiving terrain.
The organizers are working hard to make the rally a must-see fixture on the global motorsports calendar. The race is being broadcast in almost 200 countries, while the event website offers live tracking and up-to-date results for those playing along at home.
Check out our gallery for the best images from the middle stages of the 2017 Silk Way Rally.