Stage 5 of The Dakar Rally could best be described as one of extremes. Everything seemed to be dialed up to eleven and Saturday’s Rest Day starting to look pretty darned good. Let’s start with the astounding performance put in by one of the day’s winners, #2 Marc Coma. He has been the picture of consistency throughout the race so far. Today he dropped the hammer to take the stage and overall lead in one fell swoop. He was closely followed by KTM team mate #4 Jordi Viladoms who supported Coma and moved into 4th place. This is Villadoms’ tenth Dakar Rally who was brought into the team to replace fallen rider Kurt Caselli.
“It’s obviously a shame to be inheriting the ride under such sad circumstances, but I’ll be doing my best to put on a good show in Kurt’s memory.” – Jordi Villadoms
Other riders like #7 Helder Rodrigues, #30 Riaan Van Niekerk and #40 Juan Carlos Salvatierra broke into the top five for the first time this race. They’ve taken advantage of the poor luck that has befallen elite riders like #3 Joan Barreda Bort who finished 13th and #1 Cyril Despres who was 32nd. American #92 Mike Johnson is still fighting the good fight in 59th place and 84th overall. The heat and exhaustion have led to human errors, while some equipment just couldn’t handle anymore strain. This was what happened to Dakar veteran #10 Paulo Gonçalves. It just so happened that the chase helicopter happened to be in the vicinity as his CRF 450 Rally Honda burst into flames. Unlike #167 Peter Hardy whose bike burned during stage 3, there were no help for the Portuguese rider. The heartbreaking video of the rider crying while his bike was engulfed in flames, is a testimony of the passion and dedication that all The Dakar Rally competitors have.
Minis On The Move
#304 Nani Roma and Michel Perin reclaimed the overall lead with a win in this stage. His closest competition is the duo of #307 Orlando Terranova and Paulo Fiuza, who finished the stage 3rd need to make up just over half-hour to catch the Catalan driver. #300 Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret have a wider margin to close. If they can’t get beyond almost forty minutes of lost time, then their chances of a championship hat-trick will be further away than ever. The ones looking to break up a Mini clean sweep is #302 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz with their Imperial Toyota HiLux. De Villiers won the race in 2009 and is looking to finish this edition, standing on the podium’s top step. After a thrilling performance on stage 4, #303 Carlos Sainz and Timo Gottschalk were crippled by electrical problems that led them to finish stage 5 25th and drop from the overall lead to 7th place. He now has to make up hours instead of minutes in order to have any hope of beating the mighty Minis.
#305 Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch finished stage 5 in 15th place just ahead of 2011 Dakar winning driver #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah and his co-driver Lucas Cruz who dropped to 5th in the overall standings, while the Hummer is 22nd. The Gordini team has had an uphill battle to be relevant in this race. With constant fuel issues and then navigational problems during this particular stage, there has been improvement but when you look at the times, just finishing this race could be their big achievement. #318 BJ Baldwin and Quinn Cody lost their team mate #320 Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Alexandre Winocq who withdrew in stage 4.
“…we felt the car was running really hot and jumped out to check the problem only to realize the car was on fire! Only a few minutes later the car exploded. Alex and I are both okay, but we are very lucky. (January 8, 2014)” – Guerlain Chicherit’s Facebook page
Ballistic Baldwin is behind Gordon, finishing the stage 41st and also moving up to 37th overall. His his vehicle has been nicknamed “Gremlin” due to its consistent vapor lock problems. At least he’s got a sense of humor about it and continues to tirelessly represent his country. Rally on, boys!
Kamaz Master Team On The Comeback Trail
Last year, Russia’s Kamaz Master Team accomplished a clean sweep of The Dakar Rally podium, which #501 Gérard De Rooy went home with fourth place. Bad luck for the Russians and good luck for the second generation Dakar-racer tell a different tale this year. #549 Dmitry Sotnikov and #506 Andrey Karginov took the top two spots in the stage, while De Rooy capture third place. Despite their valiant pursuit, the Dutchman is quite secure in his overall lead. However, the three Kamaz trucks are right behind him and won’t give up until the very last minute of this race. The other competitor giving the Russians a hard time was #508 Marcel Van Vliet, but he ended the day in 22nd place and dropped down to eighth, two hours behind on the overall list.
Our Deepest Condolences
We must especially mention the three persons who have lost their lives in pursuit of their passion. Belgian rider #122 Eric Palante loved The Dakar Rally. This was his eleventh time facing the South American desert. Although he’s had to abandon the race a number of times and recovered from a terrible back injury in 2007, he never gave up on following his heart. Monsieur Palante embodied the true spirit of The Dakar Rally and will be sorely missed. Two Argentine civilians Agustin Mina and Daniel Ambrosio were following the rally with their friends Martin Delgado and Rodrigo de Quesada, in their own vehicle. They too loved the race and like hundreds of others, set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Our thoughts are with all their loved ones at this time.
Stage 6 Tucumán to Salta was completed on January 10, 2014. Look out for our recap, but get updates in real time with The Dakar Rally official mobile apps and their social media channels: