The Cars and Trucks are on part 1 of their marathon stage. The Cars’ overnight bivouac in Uyuni, Bolivia, will also accommodate the Bikes and Quads that are set to arrive on Sunday, which is when the cars will be racing back to Iquique, Chile simultaneously. Trucks are a different kettle of fish. Their route stayed in Chile and their private marathon stage bivouac is in the middle of the Atacama Desert. According to a Kamaz Master Team’s Facebook page update, the camp is closed to journalists. (Feel free to sound off in the comments about that move by the A.S.O.) The second part of their marathon stage will take them back to Iquique, Chile where they will have Monday off along with the Car teams. On Tuesday all divisions will set out for Calama.
Now that we’re clear about who went where and when, let’s dig into what happened on stage 7. There’s a full-on Mini versus Toyota war in the Car class. #301 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel are still in the lead but the gap between them and #303 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz has been reduced to 00:08:14. Al-Attiyah said, “The stage wasn’t difficult, it was the altitude. I had to stop three times to vomit and I had a terrible headache every time we went over a bump. I’ve lost some time, but it’s no big deal. We don’t need to push our limits. The car is in good condition, so we’re only going to change the tyres, check a few things and then go get a rest.” The Toyota Hilux and Mini finished the stage 5th and 6th respectively.
Monster Energy Rally Raid Team’s #305 Orlando Terranova and Bernardo Graue took today’s honours, moving up to 24th overall with their Mini. Next came two Toyotas. #325 Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk were the runners-up and edified their overall 3rd spot. While #315 Bernhard Ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul were third-fastest and 5th overall. Terranova’s teammates rounded out the top five: #307 Krzysztof Holowczyc and Xavier Panseri followed by #300 Nani Roma and Michel Périn. While some drivers struggled with the altitude, bad weather in Bolivia were problematic others like Team Peugeot Total’s #302 Stéphane Peterhansel said, “We had hail for an hour and then some terrible storms, with waves of water. The roads were simply a quagmire: it was a nightmare. At one point, I thought it would be absolutely impossible for us to get out of the stage. With all the mud, it was very difficult for the two-wheel drive cars. This stage is going to stick in my memory: to only lose 10 minutes is a good achievement for us today!” His teammate #322 Cyril Despres is seeing the Dakar Rally in a different light after thirteen races on a motorcycle. “I’m beginning to have more stories about seven stages on the Dakar than I did about the last seven years!” said Despres.
The Gordini is still going strong. #308 Robby Gordon and Johnny Campbell were 9th fastest, only five seconds slower than #302 Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret. The Americans have gained two spots and now hold 23rd overall. You’re not going to believe this but #354 Tom Coronel is still in the race! Last night he was on the Withdrawals List as an expulsion (cross my heart) but today he’s off the list and listed as having finished today’s stage in 67th place and is 71st overall. Hopefully Tom’s YouTube channel will have a video update soon to explain it all. We’re also waiting for word on #330 Romain Dumas and Francois Borsotto who aren’t on any of the lists yet. Sometimes vehicles end up spending all night on a stage or the satellite connection is unstable so the stats don’t update in real-time like they should. That’s the nature of a race like this and we’re all accustomed to lapses in the information flow, so please bear with us.
#503 Ales Loprais bounced back to win his first stage in this year’s race, after losing precious time on stage 6 when his truck got stuck in a sand dune. This puts the Instaforex Loprais Eurol Veka Man behind the four Kamaz Master trucks atop the standings. There was a shake-up in the Russian team as #502 Eduard Nikolaev encountered problems on the stage finishing 20th, 01:06:35 behind Loprais. This cost him the top spot and now he’s 4th overall. The new leader is #507 Airat Mardeev with #500 Andrey Karginov now in 2nd place. #520 Dmitry Sotnikov is 3rd overall and has been quietly improving all week long. Now only 37 sec separate him from defending champion, Karginov. Not bad considering this is his second Dakar Rally but not totally unexpected either because he finished fourth in 2014. Kamaz Master sure knows how to pick them. #501 Gerard De Rooy enjoyed his best stage result for the race so far, second place, 00:05:39 behind Loprais and 21st overall. At 07:19:15 behind Mardeev, the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco will take stage success wherever and whenever possible.
Stage 8 will definitely be interesting. Those Car and Truck racers will be more than happy to be reunited with their support teams. Remember to watch NBC Sports Network’s “The Dakar Rally” with Leigh Diffey, and check out the Dakar Rally’s official online resources:
Smartphone apps: http://www.dakar.com/dakar/2015/fr/application-mobile.html
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