The Dakar Rally 2014 is winding down. Stage 12 ran from El Salvador to La Serena, Chile on January 17, 2014. There’s only one leg left which means no more holding back, right? Team orders didn’t mean a thing to the X Raid drivers today because #304 Nani Roma and Michel Perin lost valuable time in the dunes. With Roma’s blessing, #300 Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret passed him to take the stage win, simultaneously regaining the overall lead; but only barely. Roma is still within striking distance of taking stage 13 and the win. With #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Lucas Cruz in third place, does it really matter to the team who wins the race? Since #302 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz passed Terranova, the threat of a Toyota on the podium is higher than ever. Now it’s up to Al-Attiyah to make sure the South African doesn’t get by him. Right now there are eleven Minis in the overall top twenty. After a night of speculation, #305 Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch officially withdrew from the race and already pledged to return in 2015. The only American competitor remaining is, you guessed it, #92 Mike Johnson who finished the stage 56th and overall 74th out of 78 riders. Ninety-six riders didn’t make it this far, so hang in there, Mike!
The man in the catbird seat for bikes is #2 Marc Coma. He now has a lead of almost two hours on his teammate #4 Jordi Villadoms. Wait, what the heck happened to #3 Joan Barreda Bort? The Spanish rider making Honda fans’ hearts beat a bit faster and won four stages ended up with a crippled bike that crossed the finish line at La Serena 67th. His overall position plummeted to seventh and he’s now over three hours away from Coma. It’s a cautionary tale to all that anything can happen in this race and nothing is ever sure. The battle for third place is now between the Yamaha teammates, #6 Olivier Pain and #1 Cyril Despres. It’s been an incredible rebound for Despres but will Pain yield to the five-time champion? Or will the young Frenchman chase down Villadoms in an attempt to snatch a silver finish? We’ll say again, don’t take your eyes off #7 Helder Rodrigues who’s only a few minutes behind Despres and may have a chance to take Honda to the podium. While the boys are at it, #50 Laia Sanz finished the stage twelfth and once again regained her highest overall position – sixteenth. Rock on, Laia!
One of the fiercest and most dramatic contests throughout this year’s Dakar Rally has been in the truck class. Despite a strong showing from the Veka Man and InstaForex Lorais Teams, this has been the Kamaz Master vs De Rooy show. The Russian reigning champions have had their share of highs and lows this year, but #501 Gérard De Rooy has given them pressure every step of the way. Except for when he helped to get their fallen truck upright back in stage 3, thus sacrificing precious time which the organizers gave back to him as a reward for good sportsmanship. The Dutchman won the day with current overall leader #506 Andrey Karginov less than a minute behind him. Actually (and reeking of intimidation), they were chased by four Kamaz trucks in total, just minutes apart from each other. At this point, all the truck teams will be hoping beyond hope to avoid punctures, loss of steering control or heaven forbid – accidents. They’ll have enough on their hands with the rocky terrain leading to Valparaíso. More than the other classes aforementioned, this one is the most unpredictable…just the way we like it!
Stage 13 will be followed by the podium ceremony being held at night for the first time. We’ll bring you our recap once the festivities (and possible fisticuffs?) have calmed down. You can also get live updates throughout the day with The Dakar Rally official mobile apps and their social media channels: