2011 Dakar Rally: Stage Five Report

Calama – Iquique

After crossing the Andes yesterday today’s run to Iquique took the 2011 Dakar almost to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Today saw almost the exact opposite of yesterday’s stage – a short connection before a much longer stage, and dunes made their first real appearance of 2011. However, while moves were made on the stage, decisions taken overnight by the organisers also had repercussions upon the standings. This stage has become one of the highlights of the South American Dakar, ending with a breath-taking 3 in 10 decent into Iquique.

Bikes: Pain, Penalty And A Portuguese Person

At the end of the day it was Portuguese Paulo Goncalves who was handed the stage win – his first Dakar stage win. However, initially it was ‘Chaleco’ Lopez who was given the stage win, and the Chilean a popular winner in his home country, but then organisers took into account Olivier Pain.

The Frenchman, who finished yesterday’s stage fourth, and was leading the stage today at some of the early waypoints, had fallen – and was knocked unconscious and with a broken wrist – but was helped by riders who came upon his downed Yamaha. First Marc Coma, starting the stage as overall leader, then Goncalves, Coma setting off Pain’s emergency beacon before he was helicoptered away.

“After the refuelling point, I stopped to help Olivier Pain who had fallen,” Goncalves said, before knowing he had won the stage. “The rules say we should stop. I waited for 4 to 5 minutes. The main thing is that he’s ok.”

After the stage officials looked at the GPS records of both Coma and Goncalves, giving them back the time lost in assisting Pain – as stated in the rules. The recouped time put Goncalves over two minutes ahead of Lopez, Coma claiming fourth best on stage behind Frans Verhoeven at the end of an eventful stage which also saw him fall early in stage, damaging his radiator, delaying for the rest of the day.

Coma had been given another present overnight, overall rival Cyril Despres being given a ten minute penalty after an offence in the start zone of yesterday’s stage.

“I was told at half past four in the morning that I’d been given a penalty,” Despres explains. “I just forgot my thermal gloves, so I went back to get them and I didn’t see that there were signposts I had to follow at the exit.”

Despres also summed up the navigation challenge in the stage, as the Rally moves increasingly away from tracks and onto the open plains describing the search for the GPS waypoints as “like needles in haystacks.”

One of many to lose time sifting the haystack was David Casteu, the Sherco rider losing five hours today, and with any hope of a good result having started the day in the top ten overall.

Quads: Another Success For Patronelli

While Alejandro Patronelli was able to take his second stage win of the year, the lead battle has been – at least for the time – trimmed from three Argentines to just two after Sebastian Halpern lost over 40 minutes on the stage – finishing the day sixth fastest.

“It was really tough, very tiring – exhausting, in fact,” Patronelli admitted. “But that’s the Dakar and you have to fight to withstand the demands of the race. Tomas Maffei is doing well, which is normal, because he’s talented. He demonstrated that during the endurance race at Verano. I hope an Argentinean rider will win. I’m going to keep going at my pace and just hoping to finish”.

The stage sees Halpern drop back from Patronelli and Tomas Maffei who were again the class of the quad class. Czech Josef Machacek was initially given the third fastest stage time, before a four hour penalty was applied, sending him plummeting down the order, while Jorge Santamaria, who recorded the fifth fastest time on his Honda was given a six hour penalty.

Those penalties lifted Martin Plechaty to third fastest, followed by Sebastian Halpern and Christophe Declerck, the latter’s Polaris lending some diversity to the Yamaha dominated Quad class leaderboard.

Cars: Peterhansel Claims BMW’s First Stage

Bizarrely, a stage five report for the cars must start with the events of stage four.

Though official sources listed Robby Gordon as an abandonment after a broken wheel bearing on the marathon connecting stage, the Hummer driver went on to complete yesterday’s stage – then worry about pleading his case to continue on the rally.

It was predictably a case Gordon was never likely to win, putting a sad post-script on a disastrous rally for the American.

But today was BMWs day, the X-Raid Team scoring their first win of the Rally thanks to Stephane Peterhansel. The Frenchman led much of stage the advantage swaying wildly from nearly four minutes to just a matter of seconds over the chasing Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah. The stage ended, recording a stage win by 1m24 over the Qatari, with Sainz nearly two minutes further back cutting his overall lead to just 2m26, Peterhansel now his nearest challenger.

Though Peterhansel and BMW won the battle, it may have been VW who won the war of the stage, the quartet of Touaregs annexing the remainder of the top five as much of the rest of the X-Raid ranks struck trouble.

Guerlain Chicherit ran well early on, putting the MINI among the three fastest cars at the 83km waypoint on the stage. He was soon, however, stuck the car nosed into a ditch, its rear wheels uselessly in the air. So, his teammates tried to come to his aid.

Peterhansel stopped briefly before Krzysztof Holowczyc tried to pull the MINI onto solid ground. He was unsuccessful, Holowczyc’s tow-line snapping in the process. The Pole would finish the day sixth fastest, enough to keep his top five overall standings despite being another to suffer with navigation troubles, estimating ten minutes lost in the final 30km of the day.

Chicherit’s eventual rescuer was Ricardo Leal Dos Santos – very much the forgotten man of the X-Raid stable – The MINI ending the stage tenth fastest, 52 minutes the total loss.

Worse was to befall Leonid Novitskiy. The Russian’s BMW hit a rock on the stage, the shock transferring up the steering, breaking his wrist, co-driver Andreas Schulz driving the car into the Iquique bivouac. His rally, over.

Trucks: Problems For Chagin, Kabirov Capitalises

It was another day of chasing the Kamaz for the truck runners as Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov swapped the lead back and forth through much the stage, seemingly in their own private battle comfortably clear of Ales Loprais and Franz Echter – leading the efforts of Tatra and MAN respectively against the Kamaz juggernaut.

However, the latter part of the stage saw something of a Dakar rarity – a Kamaz with a mechanical problem – and it was Chagin, slipping back to fourth fastest on the stage, 22 minutes behind stage winner Kabirov.

Kamaz’s junior driver Eduard Nikolaev took an impressive second on the stage, Loprais third keeping him 25 minutes behind the overall leader Kabirov, Chagin now 13 minutes in arrears in second after his problems today.

2011 Dakar Rally Stage Five Results:

1 Paulo Goncalves (BMW) in 5:12m23
2 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:02m18
3 Frans Verhoeven (BMW) +0:02m19
4 Marc Coma (KTM) +0:03m58
5 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:04m10

1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 6:04m34
2 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) +0:03m21
3 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0:36m02
4 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:41m38
5 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +1:03m36

1 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) in 4:33m19
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:01m24
3 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:03m15
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:05m21
5 Mark Miller (VW) +0:20m42

1 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) in 5:41m11
2 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +0:20m05
3 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:21m25
4 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0:22m17
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:25m48

Overall Standings After Stage Five

1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 16:59m33
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:10m14
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:18m32
4 Paulo Goncalves (BMW) +0:21m42
5 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0:32m05

1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 19:40m24
2 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) +0:01m27
3 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:42m55
4 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +1:01m51
5 Sebastian Copetti (Yamaha) +2:39m36

1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 15:45m48
2 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:02m26
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:02m33
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:21m20
5 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:47m53

1 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) in 17:39m08
2 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0:13m36
3 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:25m20
4 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +1:03m10
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +1:03m15