The first competitors left the Alxa Left bivouac early this morning when it was still dark to tackle a stage designed in pure Dakar style. Length, demanding terrain, challenge and tricky navigation were all the ingredients wisely mixed by the Organizers to give the Chinese competitors an authentic Dakar experience.
The first difficulties of this about 600 km long stage in the Badan Jalan Desert came already in the beginning with lot of sand dunes and demanding navigations.
The second part was fastest and featured roads and off-roads in dry rivers bed. Today’s special stage should have been the longest stage of the rally, but it was reduced to 233 km due to the extreme conditions of the terrain.
It was a hard day for the local Mongolian hero Aorigele and his co-driver Qin Xu, winner of the first two stages. The Knight Super Player Club's driver opened the track and was driving with a good pace when he had to slow down at km 35 in order to find a difficult way point.
He was joined by Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Gazoo racing South Africa) and Han Wei (Geely Wheels team), the reference for Cross Country Rally in China, who was looking forward to the rutted paths of this stage which suited his SMG buggy
In the end, it was #117 ZI Yungang and his co-driver Wang Zengrong from SMG Hanwei Team to win the stage with a crono of 3h30m3s. Started 15th, ZI Yungang took advantage of the traces to set his best performance so far ahead of #109 Chen Feng–Wang Yicheng on a Toyota Hilux, second at + 7min11s and now leading the FIA class. Third at +10m36s #119 Wei Hongjie–Guo Jun (Keepower Optimus).
“I am happy we didn’t expect to have such a decent result” said ZI Yungang–Shanxi Yunxiang SMG Buggy.
“I like to drive in the desert. I was 15th on the road and by the end I passed the first car, so today we were good and worked well together”
Han Wei was the first to cross the finish line and finally finished 6th, 20min24s from the top. “This stage was difficult we got lost after a few kilometres, we couldn’t find the check point so we kept looking, we stopped and tried to check with the map but we still couldn’t find it. Eventually we found it and I realised there were no cars in front of us so I was the first car to the end”, said Wei.
The 2009 Dakar winner #111 Giniel De Villiers on his Toyota Hilux started really motivated by the challenge of the Chinese unknown dunes with their aggressive peaks and steep drops. He also lost time for a navigation issue and finished 10th at +30min, with Aorigele 17th +40min 34s.
“It’s as good as anything I have done before and as tough”, stated De Villiers at the end of the stage.
Lined up in the T1 group, #136 Meng Yan (Wuwujingang Nissan Patrol) didn’t pass unnoticed as she is the only woman in the race. Wuwu is 38 years old and a real passionate one. She’s been rallying for the last 4 years and took part in 6 big races in China, but this one is the biggest and the most prestigious
“I have many victories in female rallies but my dream is to take part, one day, in the Dakar. Being here for the Dakar series China Rally is my first step to reach my dream” said Wuwu, 29th today.
The dunes and the terrain was a real challenge for the T2 vehicles that are mostly 2 tonnes including the extra roll bar and safety equipment. They don’t have the suspension of the prototypes it means freeing them is even harder.
The fastest of the T2 group today was #202 Wuritunasheng–Jia Xiaowei with 4h40m15s, followed by #205 He Xudong–Ma Li and #209 Zhang Jianfeng–Wu Xiaoguang.
The Side by Side vehicles enjoyed a lot the first part of the route on the dunes of the Badan Jalan Desert where they could use all the potential of their vehicles.
#313 Zhong Lei–Li Gang was the fastest driver of his class on a Polaris RZR1000, followed by #320 Zhang Qiang–Peng Yibo on a Yamaha YZF1000 and Li Dongsheng–Huo Mingxin (Polaris RXR000).
Superb day for #319 Su Baoheng–Tian Lei (Suzhou Buggy) who finished 11th overall, just behind the 2009 Dakar winner and set the fastest time in the open category (4h00m43s).
Second of the Open was #303 Li Jinming–Jiyatu (xiongfeng Buggy). Third #135 Li Jianguo–Li Jianbin (feiwo Fervor).
It was a pity for # 302 Jin Jing - Liqui Moly Buggy, who was doing really well as a rookie leading the Open class, but today he lost his class lead with transmission issues.
Tomorrow the competitors will take the start of the 4th stage from the Alxa Right bivouac, a loop 90% in sandy Off Road modality that offers some hard dunes crossing and sandy valleys.