The official podium ceremony for the 2017 Silk Way Rally was held on Moscow’s iconic Red Square on Friday, with defending car champion Cyril Despres leading the way.
The Frenchman can expect to face a serious challenge from fellow Peugeot drivers Stephane Peterhansel and Sebastian Loeb over the next fortnight.
Yazeed Alrahji is leading the challenge for Mini, while in the trucks Kamaz will be looking to extend their Silk Way dominance, having already won the race five times from a possible six.
Rain and wind made for a muddy and slippery stage 1 from Moscow to Tcheboksary (61km of special). Despres was a little off the pace, over two minutes behind stage winner Loeb – who was only 29 seconds ahead of Peterhansel. Peugeot laying down an early marker.
The big surprise in the trucks was to see the Kamaz fleet all over four minutes back (eight for defending champion Airat Mardeev). Martin Kolomy took the stage win ahead of fellow Czech and 2011 champion Ales Loprais.
Stage takes the drivers from Tcheboksary to Ufa and involves 157km of special.