Already from preparing the road book, drivers and co-drivers had the clear idea that it was going to be another tough day.
The original 317 kms of special stage for a total of 375 kms was reduced to 255kms of stage, but still very demanding with massive dunes crossings. The second loop around the Alxa Right bivouac brought the competitors in the Badain Jaran Desert for another full immersion in the dunes before tackling a faster part with many roads damaged by the rain.
Recovering leading position, #111 Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa) started with one goal in mind: accurate driving and no navigation mistakes.
Mission accomplished as he finished second, only 25 seconds behind #103 the Chinese Han Wei (Geely Auto Cooper Tires SMG Buggy), who made a superb performance and set the fastest time (4h 7min 02 sec) and was the first of the FIA classification. Third at +9m 06sec #123 Tao Yong Ming on a Nissan VK50.
The Chinese #121 Aorigele, winner of 3 stages wanted to attack but he got stuck in his Nissan pickup and dropped a lot of time. He finally finished 4th at +9min 10sec.
With today’s result De Villiers and his co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz jump on top of the general standing. They lead with 1min 41sec of advantage on #117 Zi Yungang from Shanxi Yunxiang Team, and +13min 50 sec on #103 Han Wei. The local hero Aorigele is now 4th, but quite behind (15m 17sec). #109 Chen Feng closes the top 5.
“Yesterday our gearbox was broken so we wasted time” said stage winner Han Wei, “we changed it because there were 2 long stages left. We pushed hard today to take the win and have a good result, if not we have no other chances, so we decided to catch up as much as we can”.
“We took the star this morning determined to close the gap and I’m happy that we made it, although it would have been nice to win the stage. It was a very demanding day because there were many dunes crossings which are so challenging for the body and also tricky in terms of navigation. With Dirk, my co-driver, we did a good job. It was important to recover position today with only one long stage remaining”, said De Villiers.
These stages are particularly tough on the T2 class, the production vehicles really take abuse in the dunes and the Isuzu of Zhang Jianfeng get major technical problems. #205 He Xudong (Jiangxi Isuzu) was the fastest of his category today and leader of the general standing. He finished ahead of 201 Song Haitao (Zhengzhou Nissan rich pickup). Third was #208 Shi Hong (Jiangxi Isuzu).
#317 Guan Quanquan (Changbaishan Stock Pioneer) was the 1st of the open class and 12th overall with a crono of 05:26:44. Second #318 Zhang Hongbin (Changbaishan Stock Pioneer) and #320 Zhang Qiang (Xingjunyi China Gold E-business), respectively 18th and 19th overall. #320 Zhang now leads the provisional overall standing after a great day for 212 taking 30 minutes out of his brother brother Qiang.
The Liqui Moly driver #305 Xu Aili made a superb performance, finishing 1st of the Open Class and 10th overall. Second #308 Fan Tingjun from Xiangyang Modern City Team, 14th overall. Third #135 Li Jianguo ( Beidaihe Brother Racing Club), 20th overall.
It was a pity for Su Baoheng (Chewukuangsha Buggy), the only Open vehicle without any penalties so far. Unfortunately an issue with the rear axle made him lose a lot of time and the top position. The new leader of the provisional overall standing is now Li Jianguo.
Tomorrow the competitors will tackle the 6th stage that will bring them to the FB-Festival bivoauc in Alxa left. They will cover 669 km in total, 328 km of special stage. The stage will be crucial to make time difference and recover position before the final sprint of 28 Km in front of the spectators of the famous FB-Festival.
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