After yesterday’s action through the Atacama Desert, the Dakar Rally moved on to the Andes Mountains today with a high altitude 417km connecting stage. Competitors would later tackle a 218km timed special stage, with tiredness and unreliability starting to become more and more of a problem for numerous entries.
Bikes: Caselli records first stage win
American rider Kurt Caselli today opened his account with a stage victory today. The KTM rider emerged victorious in a tight bike battle, which saw his winning margin being a mere one minute and 23 seconds over yesterday’s winner, Francisco Lopez.
Caselli took the advantage right from the start, posting the fastest time at the first checkpoint. The American’s lead was at that stage 51 seconds over Lopez, with Botturi being a further two minutes and 29 seconds behind in third. However, things would not stay that way for long, with overall leader Olivier Pain soon moving into second, just three seconds off the pace, with Frans Verhoeven and Kuba Przygosky sharing a joint third place.
Caselli would extend his margin by the time of the next checkpoint however, moving a minute and eleven seconds ahead of Pain with Verhoeven maintaining third. Cyril Despres was having a more difficult time of it however, and trailed the stage winner by just under nine minutes.
David Casteu was also having a more challenging day, and was three minutes off the pace of the leader.
Kurt Caselli was therefore able to stay out in the lead and took a surprise first stage win, his final time being one hour and 51 minutes. Lopez and Pain completed the top three, with Verhoeven eventually losing out on a top three time by seven seconds.
Today’s result means that Pain has strengthened his lead in the overall classification to a six minute and six second advantage over Lopez, with Casteu dropping to third, six minutes and 37 seconds off the pace. Pain said he would not get complacent despite his extended lead:
“I’m not getting ahead of myself, I’m just going to carry on like this without taking risks and enjoying myself. Today I just concentrated on my own race. With the injection system, I knew our bike wouldn’t suffer too much from the altitude, so it’s all been fine… I’m still in the lead, so overall it’s been a good day.”
Despres ultimately lost thirteen minutes today, posting the 34th fastest time. This means he loses a chunk of time to Pain and drops to fifth in the overall standings, 14 minutes off the pace of his fellow countryman.
His bad day got even worse when he broke down whilst attempting to make his way back to the bivouac, but was eventually able to restart his bike and get going again. He later blamed his poor performance today on gearbox problems.
Quads: Palma defeats Patronelli in close finish
There was another close finish today, with Marcos Patronelli suffering his second stage loss in two days whilst Sebastian Palma claimed his first. Palma would defeat Patronelli by 35 seconds with South African rider, Sarel Van Biljon, being only four off the pace of the latter.
Initially it was van Biljon who made the early running, posting the best time after 74km of the special stage, edging Patronelli out by fifteen seconds. Yesterday’s stage winner, Ignacio Casale, held fourth, one minute and eleven seconds behind.
A battle would commence between van Biljon and Patronelli, with the Argentine posting the fastest time at the second checkpoint, beating van Biljon’s by nine seconds as Casale moved up to third. However, by the next checkpoint, van Biljon had snatched the lead back.
Palma, who had at this stage been 50 seconds off the leader found pace and was soon in a position to challenge, and took third from Casale and would post the fastest time with just 30km of the stage to run.
Palma therefore managed to hold on and post the fastest time of the day, his winning time being two hours and 25 minutes. Patronelli finally got the better of van Biljon to claim second, with the South African eventually settling for third.
“It was tight and it was very dusty and it was long and it was fast. It was a tight battle between the first three. I tried to catch Patronelli. We caught up with Casale, and from there on it was just one hell of a battle to keep in front of each other. The dust was so dense and there was no space to overtake. Now it’s finished, another day in the pocket. I enjoyed it and now we go to the bivouac,” today’s runner up said.
Casale rounded out the top four, and was some way behind, eventually being three minutes and eight seconds off the pace. As such, Patronelli’s lead in the overall classification therefore increases slightly over the Chilean to one hour and fourteen minutes.
Cars: Peterhansel strikes back at Al-Attiyah
In recent days, the victory in the car category has looked like it would be disputed between two men, Stéphane Peterhansel and Nasser Al-Attiyah. After the latter’s stage win yesterday, Peterhansel emerged victorious in a tight battle with Guerlain Chicherit to post the fastest time today.
Al-Attiyah initially held the early advantage, and after the first checkpoint, held a slim advantage of sixteen seconds over Robby Gordon’s Hummer, with Peterhansel holding third, 35 seconds behind.
However, this would soon change, because as Chicherit passed the first checkpoint, he registered a time that was 22 seconds faster than the Qatari’s Red Bull buggy.
The advantage would flip-flop for the rest of the stage, with Al-Attiyah was again soon taking the initiative, before Chicherit would hit back, whilst Peterhansel improved to move ahead of Robby Gordon.
But Al-Attiyah would soon begin to struggle and drop back, losing one minute and 56 seconds to Peterhansel, promoting the Mini driver into the lead. Orlando Terranova also capitalised on this to jump up to third at this stage.
Despite his earlier pace, Chicherit would also lose pace, losing time in the later more twisty final few kilometres to give Peterhansel the fastest time. His time of one hour and 47 minutes was 39 seconds quicker than fellow countryman Chicherit, with Gordon eventually getting the better or Terranova to end the day third fastest, one minute and eight seconds off the pace.
Today’s result means that Peterhansel slightly extends his advantage over Al-Attiyah in the overall standings to three minutes and fourteen seconds. Giniel de Villiers enjoyed another consistent performance today to end up fifth quickest, and therefore maintains third in the overall standings.
“The last 90 km were interesting, rather twisty with some rocks, but very technical, so we were able to enjoy ourselves and gain a few seconds more over Nasser,” Peterhansel said.
Trucks: de Rooy claims another stage win
Gerard de Rooy has extended his lead in the overall classification after another stage win. It was another close encounter, with the winning margin between the top two after today’s action being just one minute and nine seconds at the finish.
Things started strongly for Ales Loprais who took the early advantage at the first checkpoint to post the fastest time, with Versluis and Andrey Karginov being just two seconds behind him, whilst de Rooy initially held fourth, ten seconds off the pace.
de Rooy would have taken the advantage by the next checkpoint 113km into proceedings and led Karginov by 21 seconds. Things remained close behind with Versluis trailing by ten seconds, with Loprais, the early pace setter, being just one behind him!
The gaps would open slightly from here on in, with de Rooy just doing enough to end the day fastest once more from Loprais. His winning time was two hours and two minutes, with Karginov ending the day third fastest, one minute and 38 off the pace of de Rooy.
Despite this, de Rooy was not entirely happy with the day:
“These stupid buggies, they don’t let me past. I’d been pushing them for a long time and they didn’t let me past. In a fast section they passed me, but then in a bad section, they’re too slow. Today was all about losing. You could lose a lot of time. It was very tricky with the stones so we had to drive carefully,” he complained.
The Dutchman’s advantage in the overall standings now lies at a healthy 22 minutes over Nikolaev. The Russian finished seventh today but maintains second, with Martin Kolomy now moving up to third.
2013 Dakar Rally stage seven results
|3||Sarel van Biljon||E-ATV||02:25:44||00:00:38|
|5||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||01:48:59||00:01:32|
|1||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||02:02:21|
2013 Dakar Rally overall standings after stage seven
|4||Sarel van Biljon||E-ATV||22:10:51||02:02:18|
|3||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||17:07:46||00:44:03|
|1||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||19:26:06|