The Dakar Rally 2015’s end is looming as the race went to Termas de Río today. The Car class leaders on the stage were especially quick finishing within seconds of each other. #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel won in their Qatar Rally Team Mini while Monster Energy Rally Raid Team’s #305 Orlando Terranova and Bernardo Graue were only 27 sec behind them. Despite another good result the Argentine duo are 18th overall and not an actual threat to Al-Attiyah and Baumel. That honour goes to #303 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz in the Toyota Imperial Team South Africa Hilux. They haven’t been able to pass Al-Attiyah since he took the lead in stage 2 and now the gap between them stands at 00:29:01. De Villiers is reflective about their position as beating the Qatari seems less and less likely, “You know, we only really had one bad day which cost us the race, but I think we can be very satisfied. We’ve made big steps forward with Hilux and it’s good for the future.” Al-Attiyah isn’t resting on his laurels yet because the rally could be won or lost right up to the final finish line, “There are another two days to go,” he said “and we have to survive these days.”
The top order’s biggest change came from the withdrawal of Yazeed Racing’s #325 Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk. According to their team’s official Facebook post, a major problem with the Hilux’s exhaust forced them to concede before the stage began. It was a fantastic Dakar Rally debut and I’d be surprised if they don’t return in 2016. Their loss is the Monster Energy Rally Raid Team’s gain as #307 Krzysztof Holowczyc and Xavier Panseri automatically glide into 3rd overall. They’ve spent six stages in 4th overall and a podium finish on Saturday would be their best Dakar Rally result ever – a real treat for co-driver Panseri who’s a newcomer to this race.
Both of Team Peugeot Total’s cars are still running although they’re not in the running for a top three finish. #302 Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were seventh fastest and respectably 11th overall. Peterhansel (aka Monsieur Dakar) said, “The objective now is to get to Buenos Aires, so we’re not going to take every risk just to try and win a stage, especially because the stages from yesterday to the finish do not particularly suit two-wheel drive cars.” #322 Cyril Despres and Gilles Picard were more focused on the new driver getting used to the stage rather than trying to set records. Their 24th finish takes them to 35th overall. Switching from bikes to cars presents new challenges as Depres noted after stage 10, “Racing the car is less physically tough than doing the Dakar on a bike, but it is more demanding mentally.” He’ll have to pay his dues like everybody else.
The Speed Energy Racing #308 Gordini took some damage today. Co-driver Johnny Campbell said in a Facebook update, “We crashed slid into embankment spun the car around in air, Landed backward on all four! Restarted car and took off, could have been bad 100mph scrubbing speed when hit. Window Wipers stopped and vision was problem.” That could have ended very badly for the Americans but thanks to Robby Gordon’s wheeling, they finished 13th on the stage, only 00:03:11 behind Al-Attiyah and are now 19th overall. Another fan favourite, #354 Tom Coronel, was 64th to cross today’s finish line. We’d be remiss to omit any mention of Guerlain Chicherit and Alexandre Winocq the All Terrain Team (Zebra) Buggy #323. Chicherit is one of those enigmatic action sports daredevils whose adventures are often best seen to be believed. This is his ninth Dakar rally and while they’re nowhere near repeating the 5th place finish in 2010, this year’s results haven’t been completely terrible. His social media updates are accompanied with #NEVERgiveup. Trophies are nice but that relentlessness is what the Dakar Rally is all about. Rally on, you guys!
Had a top 5 run going in stage 11 of #dakar2015, and then this happened. Driver and @jcrhonda were ok, and the @toyotires held up great! Lost a few minutes, but was able to finish 13th. @traxxasracing @ssupertrucks @speed_energy @magnaflow @impactbymcs @kingshocks @replayxd @outlaw_led @robby_gordon_offroad #racing #dakar #wreck #teamtoyo #teamspeed @planetrobby @4wheelpartsofficial
Nobody should hold it against the bike and quad riders for kissing the ground at Termas de Río. They completed their second marathon stage and it was eventful to say the least. For starters two notable motorcyclists couldn’t start: #10 Juan Pedrero Garcia (Yamaha-Spain) and #12 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Honda-Chile). So those guys are officially out. Team HRC’s #2 Joan Barreda Bort was the fastest rider but a 45min penalty busted him down to 40th. A number of news sites including Dakar.com prematurely declared him the winner. He said, “I had some fun today which was nice after some days of mechanical problems. Yesterday was difficult for my team-mate Paulo and I had to change engines with him. I slept only for three hours in the marathon bivouac because we were doing our own mechanics. Now I focused on riding two more fast stages to show my best at this race. Marc (Coma) has a got a good lead at the front, but the guys chasing him won’t stop until the finish line.” Indeed the main guy chasing Red Bull KTM Factory’s #1 Marc Coma is Barreda Bort’s teammate, #7 Paulo Goncalves. Unfortunately for the Portuguese rider, the gap between him and Coma has increased to 00:21:12 because of the aforementioned engine change. “It’s not possible to claw back twenty minutes racing, but anything could still happen” said Gonsalves, “We’ve just got to keep working and take each day as it comes.”
KTM bikes dominate the top ten. It’s quicker to mention the three non-KTM riders. Gonsalves’ team mate, #29 Laia Sanz, is 8th overall and must now hold off the day’s stage winner, #21 Ivan Jakes from Slovakia. #3 Olivier Pain is still the highest ranked Yamaha in tenth overall. The French Dakar vet said, “I’m getting to know my bike’s strengths and weaknesses much more now and ride accordingly, making up time where I can. The route was really nice to ride, up in the mountains. It had rained overnight so there was lots of grip. Not much in the way of navigation but apart from that it was pure pleasure.” Australian Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider #26 Toby Price edged out non-teammate #31 Pablo Quintanilla for the 3rd overall place. The 00:02:28 between them doesn’t seem like much but this race has been lost on slimmer margins. After tonight’s repairs with the professional tech team and a visit to the medical tent, Quintanilla should be comfortable enough to push hard on the route to Rosario or surrender his chance to represent Chile on the finale podium.
French Quad rider #260 Christophe Declerck earned the first stage win of this Dakar Rally career, and moving him up one space into the overall top five. Unfortunately his upward mobility will keep him rooted there, 06:06:55 behind class leader #251 Rafal Sonik. Sonik was 6th fastest and probably just wanted to get to the bivouac in one piece after suffering a fall on the previous day. He could take it easy a little though since closest rival #261 Jeremias González Ferioli is 02:50:01 away, and 3rd place #283 Walter Nosiglia’s time from the lead is 03:42:03. However let’s get back to the stage results because although Sonik seems to have the victory sewn up, that hasn’t stopped other riders from trying to make an impression during the rally’s remaining days. Paraguay’s #256 Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano was the second-fastest rider and undoubtedly hunting for his third stage win. Nosiglia was third and South African rookie rider #286 Willem Saaijman enjoyed his best results so far – 4th yesterday and 9th overall.
It was another hotly contested stage for the Truck class that produced a 1-2 win for Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco. #504 Hans Stacey took top honours while #501 Gerard De Rooy was only 00:01:10 behind him. Their overall positions of 6th and 10th remain unchanged but it must have been sweet to pull one over on the Kamaz Master Team boys. Their #502 Eduard Nikolaev had the third truck to cross the finish line, as he’s determined to close the gap on team mate and current leader, #507 Airat Mardeev. Right now only 00:11:11 stand between Nikolaev and his second Dakar Rally victory, while Mardeev is fighting for his first. #500 Andrey Karginov is better positioned to defend his 3rd overall place from #503 Ales Loprais, than his 2014 Dakar Rally championship. Unless something happens to them then it’ll be “Do svidaniya, fellas!” as Karginov hauls tail to Buenos Aires.
All classes will be racing to Rosario together for stage 12 – the penultimate leg of the Dakar Rally. Look out for our exclusive recap tomorrow and don’t forget to tune in to NBC Sports Network’s “The Dakar Rally” with Leigh Diffey. The Dakar Rally’s online resources will always be there for you even after the race is over:
Smartphone apps: http://www.dakar.com/dakar/2015/fr/application-mobile.html
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/dakar