After a restful Saturday, it was time for the Bikes and Quads to get back to work and complete their stage 7. Like the Cars experienced the day before, the road to Uyuni, Bolivia was rough. Bad weather gave the riders headaches as much as the high altitude. To top things off, this was part 1 of their marathon stage so they would have to maintain and repair their vehicles without the benefit of support teams. Simultaneously the Cars headed back to the main bivouac in Iquique, Chile to close their marathon stage. While the Cars and Trucks rest on Monday, the Bike and Quads will race back to Iquique as stage 8. On Tuesday, all classes start stage 9 and leave Iquique together. This Dakar Rally is certainly one of the most memorable and arduous in recent history.
Stage 7 (Bikes and Quads)
Team HRC’s #7 Paulo Goncalves took his first stage win for Honda and the second in his Dakar career. Goncalves said, “It was a very hard stage. I caught the riders in front of me and stayed with them because they were setting a strong pace. It started raining halfway through the stage, and it got very slippery and dangerous. With about fifty kilometres to go, I got a horrible headache, but I got here with the motorcycle safe and sound. Now it’s time to rest and, at any rate, get to work a bit, as there’s mud all over the motorcycle.” The Portuguese rider arrived at Uyuni with #1 Marc Coma only fourteen seconds behind him. Although they their overall positions haven’t changed (Goncalves 3rd, Coma 2nd), the gap between Coma and current leader #2 Joan Barreda Bort was reduced considerably. Barreda Bort was the 10th bike to arrive at Uyuni with a broken handlebar. The journey was very difficult for the Spaniard who leads Team HRC.
#27 Matthias Walkner from the Red Bull KTM Factory Team was 3rd on the stage and desperately trying to improve his place on the leader board. He was 99th on stage 6, which took him from 7th to 38th overall – a terrible slide for what was happing up to be a stellar Dakar Rally debut for the Austrian. However the stage result has taken him to 34th as his perseverance holds “I’m not here to win the Dakar,” he said, “I’m here to learn. I’ve got to get to Buenos Aires, it doesn’t really matter in what place, even if I’m 25th or 45th.” Two more of his team mates rounded out the top 5 on stage and overall results. #31 Pablo Quintanilla from Chile is steady at 4th and having the best Dakar Rally of his career. Australian rookie #26 Toby Price maintains his 5th spot.
The Quads class had a first-time stage-winner, #256 Nelson Augusto Sanabria Galeano (Paraguay), taking him into the top five. #251 Rafal Sonik extended his lead with a 2nd place finish on the stage, while #250 Ignacio Casale gives chase. The defending champ from Chile is 00:21:59 behind and still feeling the pain of a 20 min penalty he picked up in an earlier stage for an accident on the way to the start line. #252 Sergio Lafuente (Uruguay) was fifth fastest on the day and solidifies his 3rd place, while another South American, Argentina’s #261 Jeremias González Ferioli is stuck in fourth. I say stuck because he’s over two hours behind Lafuente. The only non-Yamaha of the stage’s top five riders was #277 Ricardo Vinet on a Can-Am Renegade 800R. Interestingly enough eight of the top ten leaders are South American except for Sonik who’s from Poland and Frenchman #260 Christophe Declerck.
Stage 8 (Cars and Trucks)
#325 Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk scored one for Toyota by winning the stage. The Saudi Arabian driver said, “Today was a good day. We drove fast and we had fun.” This helps the Yazeed Racing team stay in 3rd overall behind runners-up #303 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz in another hard-charging Toyota. Both cars are within 00:18:40 of catching the lead Mini #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel. The Qatar Rally Team driver struggled with altitude sickness and even had to get oxygen in the medical tent at the marathon stage bivouac. Al-Attiyah said, “I’m happy to stay in the lead. We lost a wheel at the end of the first part of the special and lost a few minutes changing it. However, I attacked in the second half, overtook four cars and made up the lost time.” Despite the troubles, they’re still on top heading back to Iquique and a most welcome rest day. Krzysztof Holowczyc and Xavier Panseri in the #307 Monster Energy Rally Raid Mini have been the picture of consistency in this race. They’ve held the 4th overall spot for six out of eight stages so far, holding off #315 Bernhard Ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul.
Holowczyc and Panseri’s team mates are busy making lemonade to compensate for some disastrous stage events. #305 Orlando Terranova and Bernardo Graue were second-fastest on the stage by only 00:01:12, gaining another spot to sit 23rd overall. Terranova said, “This Dakar is frustrating. I’ve finished first three times. I was also second once. And then I was tenth. Then came the stage in which I lost time. If it weren’t for it, I’d still be in contention for the overall. I’ve got to get better and come back stronger next year. I’ve got the pace and I’ve still got a few stages left to push hard.” Defending champs #500 Nani Roma and Michel Périn were sixth fastest and are now 30th overall – a far cry from 135th after stage 1! Speed Energy Racing’s #308 Robby Gordon and Johnny Campbell faced major setbacks on the day and finished 42nd, slipping down a spot to 24th overall.
News of #330 Romain Dumas and Francois Borsotto finally came in and they had a hellish marathon stage. The altitude and stormy weather were bad enough but then a failed screen washer took away what little visibility they had. This led to a collision and a hole in their MD 04 Optimus buggy. Water came into the vehicle and wrecked their electronics. Some Bolivian fans helped them get back on track to Uyuni where according to Dumas, “We worked on the car until three in the morning… I hate it when we get into trouble. I’m just happy it’s over.” They were the 53rd car to return to Iquique and hit with a 20 min penalty sliding to 49th overall. Team Peugeot Total’s #302 Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were seventh fastest and have secured 8th on the leaderboard. While their teammates #322 Cyril Despres and Gilles Picard were 29th and actually improved a little to 41st overall.
Kamaz Master Team’s #502 Eduard Nikolaev earned his fifth stage win for Mother Russia in the Truck class. He’s still 3rd overall but 00:12:41 can be practically nothing in this race if you play your cards right, and if bad things happen to the people ahead of you, even if they’re team mates. #500 Andrey Karginov was third fastest on the stage, keeping his runner-up position; but current leader #507 Airat Mardeev seems to have run into some trouble because he lost over half-hour finishing fifth. Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco’s #501 Gerard De Rooy was the second-fastest truck, mixing it up with the Kamaz boys (which he does like nobody else). He’s clawed his way to 14th overall and you should expect to see more of this in the Dakar Rally’s second half because that’s when, as the saying goes, stuff gets real.
Look out for our next recap and tune into NBC Sports Network’s “The Dakar Rally” with Leigh Diffey. In fact, DVR it if you can because it’s well worth a re-watch! The Dakar Rally’s official online resources are updated as often as possible considering their location and the cost to you is nothing but the data charge:
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