Antofagasta – Copiapo
Stage eight saw a mix of winners. In some classes it was the predictable winner, a leader only extending their lead in the overall standings. In others it was the return to winning ways for past leaders, whose crowns have slipped in recent days and for Nasser Al-Attiyah it was the stage win that sees him lead the rally for the first time. For all, however, it was another day in the Chilean desert with another day of tricky navigation to make it through to be a day nearer to completing the Dakar. The difficulty inherent in the day illustrated by the fact that – at the time of writing – three-quarters of the 84 cars that began the stage are yet to finish.
Bikes: Coma Comes Back To Winning Ways
After a few stages of – by his normal standards – falling short of expectations Marc Coma returned to the top of the stage times, pulling back away from Cyril Despres – the Frenchman who had been gaining on the leader over the past few stages.
Despres finished the stage second, with ‘Chaleco’ Lopez third. The tough navigation on the stage led the trio to ride much of the stage together, as Lopez – who led the stage off the line – describes.
“I had to open the way on some sections,” explains ‘Chaleco’. “Cyril did it on other parts and in the end we rode well. All in all, it was a good day. We worked well together. It was difficult to win a stage like that, a 508-kilometre timed section. But we rode quickly and by staying with them like that I knew it would do me good in the general standings”.
The Aprilia rider finished the stage 4m21 down on Coma and is now 22 minutes in arrears overall, though well within striking distance of the lead with some of the treacherous dune filled stages still ahead of the competitors.
Fourth on the stage went to the man who is also fourth in the over standings – Helder Rodrigues – but fifth on the stage went to a man who only know seems to be getting to grips with the 2011 Dakar Rally. Struggling with his new, smaller, bike since the first stage of the rally Norwegian Pal Anders Ullevalseter has been improving quietly and today claimed his first top stage result of the rally.
“That was my kind of special. Until half-way through I was doing well, but then I got lost twice,” he said. “In the end, for the general standings, it was a good result and I’m continuing to climb back up. It’s very positive and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s stage”.
Some were less fortunate on stage eight. After leading at the first of the tracking waypoints Paulo Goncalves fell after 55km, breaking his collar bone to end his rally. There was also another day of delays for Jonah Street due to mechanical problems. The American was able to get moving on the stage, though he lost another 1:27 to the leaders. The other leading American in the bike class enjoyed a much better day, Quinn Cody tenth today and eighth overall.
Quads: Patronelli Leads, Normal Service Resumed
After delays yesterday which lost him the overall lead, Alejandro Patronelli took another stage win – his fourth of the event – and left his rivals to have the problems. Tomas Maffei‘s challenge fell away early on in the day, hemorrhaging time almost from the start to the stage to the extent that the electronic tracker has not yet counted him home at the end of the stage.
Problems also hit Sebastian Halpern, the leader at the start of the stage, with a loss over 30 minutes to Patronelli. With, again, many of the usual front runners it was a chance for others to make up ground on the top three. And again Pole Lukasz Laskawiec showed prowess when others were finding problems.
He led for much of the stage – taking over when Halpern’s problems took their toll and only lost out to Patronelli in the final third of the stage. Another good stage leaves him sixth overall, having gained nearly an hour on the overall lead after the last two stages.
Cars: Nice For Nasser, (More) Purgatory For Peter
Carlos Sainz has led the car class since the end of stage one, but for the first time this year the Spaniard will not sleep as leader thanks to Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s slender stage win.
Though the Qatari only won the stage by 6m36 it was enough to overturn Sainz’s lead at the end of a sometimes heated stage between the teammates, Sainz believing Al-Attiyah made contact with him as the pair crossed the dunes in tandem.
“We were really careful from the beginning,” said Al-Attiyah. “Carlos caught up with us very quickly. In the last section of dunes we were pushing at a maximum because that was where we had to take the time from Sainz. I’m quite happy to win the stage, quite happy. It was a difficult stage because I was opening all the way, but the dunes are my favourite terrain and I was really pushing to the limit.”
Sainz in now presented with a new scenario, chasing the lead – and a confident Qatari – for the first time this year in the overall standings.
“I hope that today will have been our worst day on the Dakar,” Sainz said. “At the end we got stuck in the dunes twice and both times we had to get out and dig. Sometimes everything’s fine, other times it’s not as good. We’ll just have to keep on going. We need to attack.”
While it was problems for Sainz for the first time this year it was simply variations on a theme for Stephane Peterhansel.
“Just for a change, we got a puncture right at the start,” he said, surely with more than a little sarcasm given the struggles that came before. “But it was nothing compared to what happened afterwards. We had a problem with the engine over-heating.”
“We had to make a quick fix on the fan and stop regularly to add water to the radiator. Over the last 150 km we must have lost an hour and a half. We had three punctures as well today, so we’ve finished without a spare wheel. One more and it would’ve been curtains for us. Mind you, that would’ve just been a few minutes lost, instead of hours”.
The result almost surely ends his chances of overall victory – now with 1:33 to make up and three VW to pass, 2009 champ Giniel de Villiers taking advantage of Peterhansel’s delays to take third overall. Problems – first of an electrical nature, the power steering – also hit Krzysztof Holowczyc leaving the questionable honour of being the best non-VW to Nani Roma in his Nissan Pick-Up.
Trucks: Chagin Returns To The Top
Another man – like Coma – to have slipped from his pedestal on recent stages is Vladimir Chagin, and like Coma the Russian returned to winning stages today, taking his 60th career stage.
A huge swing – Chagin winning the stage by 31 minutes – had The Tsar back on top of the overall standings by 3m27 over Kamaz stablemate Firdaus Kabirov, but it was day to bring Ales Loprais back to earth with a bump.
After consecutive stage wins either side of Saturday’s rest day the Czech finished today fourth fastest, and is now nearly 30 minutes behind Chagin, still the only man stemming the Kamaz flow in third place overall.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage Eight Results:
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 6:05m02
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:01m55
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:04m21
4 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0:08m38
5 Pal Ander Ullevalseter (KTM) +0:25m03
1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 7:57m26
2 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +0:08m02
3 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) +0:11m00
4 Jorge Santamaria (Honda) +0:32m51
5 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:34m50
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 5:16m30
2 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:06m36
3 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:17m22
4 Mark Miller (VW) +0:20m01
5 Nani Roma (Nissan) +0:51m51
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 6:01m12
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:31m49
3 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +0:36m55
4 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:41m36
5 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +1:28m00
Overall Standings After Stage Eight
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 32:18m52
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:09m19
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:22m48
4 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0:41m42
5 Ruben Faria (KTM) +1:09m59
1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 39:45m14
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:58m32
3 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +2:41m48
4 Sebastian Copetti (Yamaha) +4:47m30
5 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +5:25m19
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 28:39m50
2 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:05m14
3 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:48m45
4 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +1:33m30
5 Mark Miller (VW) +2:32m23
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 32:42m00
2 Firdaus Kabirov (kamaz) +0:03m27
3 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:29m36
4 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +1:52m28
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +3:29m52