The Dakar Rally 2014 resumed on January 12, 2014 with Stage 7. Bikes and quads travelled from Salta, Argentina to Uyuni, Bolivia for the beginning of the second marathon stage this year. They will overnight at a separate bivouac with no mechanical help from support teams. Cars and trucks stayed in Argentina to loop the Salinas Grande. This rally raid is famous for sudden changes in terrain, but this year they’ll also have to contend with salt in Argentina and Bolivia. Altitude was another issue for the naturally-aspirated engines, especially for those catching up with the leaders. After facing terrible heat last week, now rain is causing issues for the officials forcing alterations to the stages out of safety concerns. There was also a security issue, which is truly unfortunate because people shouldn’t be as unreasonable as the weather. Yet there was a race with some fantastic performances.
First things first, #2 Marc Coma, #501 Gérard De Rooy and #304 Nani Roma/Michel Perin are still perched high on the leaderboard. Anything can happen especially in this race but for now these guys are dare I say, the frontrunners. However, the rest of the field is looking to beat them at every remaining stage in the hope of becoming credible contenders. #3 Joan Barreda Bort took the stage, followed by Coma and #1 Cyril Despres, who seems to be getting a handle on the problems with his bike. However, the champ is still in tenth overall and still almost 2½ hours behind Coma. That dream of tying Peterhansel’s six Dakar Rally wins doesn’t look likely to come true in 2014. #22 Alain Duclos had his lowest stage finish so far with 21st, but still holds his fourth overall spot. Some lesser-known pro riders have broken into the top twenty taking advantage of the big name withdrawals. Simultaneously, the privateers are lower in the standings but having a great time being competitive in the race like the only American racing on two wheels #92 Mike Johnson. He’s 82nd overall and finished the stage 70th.
“El Matador” #303 Carlos Sainz and his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk kicked butt and took names on this stage. Specifically the names were of the six Minis tearing after him including old rival from Qattar #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah. Despite this, the lead held by #304 Nani Roma and Michel Perin is 30+ minutes. However if anything happens to that car, the class be a free for all. At the very least, the big fight is for the other podium spots. The only preventing a Mini whitewash is the Toyota Hilux of #302 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz. They’re fixed in third place (48:23 behind Roma) and eighth fastest on the stage. Another Toyota to watch is Orlen Team’s #328 Marek Dabrowski and Jacek Czachor who are both racing in the Dakar Rally for the first time…on four wheels. They’ve done quite well so far and haven’t left the overall top ten for the past four stages.
“I was expecting to lose time in spades in today’s stage, as we have a big power deficit at high altitude. It makes a huge difference. Nani overtook me on a fast sector, we tried to follow him, but even going at 100% wasn’t enough. To make matters worse, we lost two more minutes due to a flat. I think things will get much better for us at sea level.” – #302 Giniel De Villiers
Americans #503 Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch had a difficult day due to broken wheel studs. They ended the stage 56th and slipped down to 27th overall. #318 BJ Baldwin and Quinn Cody had their second best stage result of 28th and now hold the 37th position on the general ranking. It seems the “Gremlin” likes to be where the air is rare.
Being chased down by three Kamaz Master trucks doesn’t sound particularly relaxing unless of course, you’re #501 Gérard De Rooy. He’s the main cause of their nightmares in this year’s Dakar Rally with a lead of 37:50 heading into Bolivia. #500 Eduard Nikolaev and #549 Dmitry Sotnikov won the stage’s first and second places respectively; but are third and fourth overall, well over an hour behind De Rooy. The others hustling for top positions are from the Eurol/Veka Man Rally Team from The Netherlands and the InstaForex Loprais Team from the Czech Republic. However this is pretty much an awesome Kamaz/Iveco grudge match. Look out for our stage 8 update soon, and get live updates with The Dakar Rally official mobile apps and official social media channels: