Copiapo – Chilecito
As the 2011 Dakar Rally enters the home stretch the competitors re-enter Argentina. A long – 686km – road section brought the field back over the peaks of the Andes before a relatively short timed stage looped them south towards the overnight stop in Chilecito. With just a handful of stage remaining in the event the winners to be should be becoming clear. Should. However, most of the stages remain too close to call decided, despite the best efforts of the overall leaders to pull out a margin to take back to Buenos Aires.
Bikes: Rodrigues Lets It Slip Again, Coma Takes Hold
Portuguese Helder Rodrigues has had two days on the Dakar he'd rather forget. Leading the stage yesterday untillosing his way and running out of petrol the Yamaha rider was on form again today. Starting well down the order by virtue of his problems the day before Rodrigues was able to pick his way through some of more difficult navigation challenges on the stage, and was among the leaders until the last of the six split time waypoints on the stage.
Rodrigues held a lead of over two minutes on the stage at that point, and led until just ten kilometres from the finish line only finish 27 minutes behind in tenth.
“It was the same as yesterday!”“I started behind Marc and Cyril and I caught up with them. Afterwards, about ten kilometres from here, we got lost in a dry river bed and couldn’t find the way out. I lost a lot of time there. That’s two days in a row now.”
Rodrigues was not the only man to make navigational errors today. In a similar situation – a dry river bed – Cyril Despres got stuck on what he described as “a bad day”.
“I read 17 instead of 117 on the navigation and I ended up in the rocks with Verhoeven. We already lost lots of time there, but then in the last few kilometres I made another mistake, turned round and fell into a mud hole. It was impossible to get back out, it took me ten minutes in all.”
In total Despres lost 9m56 to stage winner Marc Coma – much of that due to the mistake in the final kilometres – more than doubling his overall deficit to the Spaniard who now enjoys an eighteen minute lead.
The remainder of the top five remains unchanged, though Francisco Lopez Contardo lost more time to the lead due after a fuel pump problem on the stage today.
Quads: Is Patronelli Unstoppable?
If you can make an argument for any of the four classes being settled, then it involves the quad category. Alejando Patronelli has made the class his own over the past few stages – as much because of others' mistakes as his own pace.
He sits on a lead of over an hour overall in the most spread out of the leaderboards – the top five are split by nearly six hours. So, it is something of a surprise that the times on stage were the closest of the four categories today.
Patronelli finished the day sixth, though just five minutes down on stage winner Jorge Santamarina. The Honda pilto was just eight seconds faster than Sebastian Halpern, Lukasz Laskawiec third agter another good stage as he chases down fifth place overall, making up another minute on Christophe Declerck who finished fourth.
Cars: De Villiers' Stage, Al-Attiyah's Rally?
2009 champion Giniel de Villiers took his first stage win of the 2011 race, battling past Stephane Peterhansel and Nasser Al-Attiyah, who had swapped the stage lead all day. Peterhansel was another fall foul of a dry river bed, getting stuck though he only finished five minutes behind de Villiers and just 75 seconds behind Krzysztof Holowczyc who took a surprise second place.
“A great stage for the navigation,” said the Pole. “[Co-driver] Jean-Marc Fortin was perfect, without any single mistake. In some places it was very difficult to take the car uphill. On the bumps and the camel grass I felt very good. Second place is very nice for us. It’s possible for us to fight with the best drivers on this rally”.
“It wasn’t a very good day because we made a lot of mistakes,” Peterhansel described his stage. “We started calmly in the dunes but then we got lost, as well as getting stuck when we wanted to cut through a dry river bed. We jumped a wall, but fell on the front of the car, which stayed stuck, so we had to get out and dig ourselves free.”
The two BMWs relegated the battle for the overall lead to fourth and fifth, where Al-Attiyah struck what could be a decisive blow in the overall standings. While the Qatari lost the stage lead he still made up time on Sainz, the defending champion again found problems in the dunes, beaching his Touareg a top a one such feature just 13km into the stage.
The delay lost him nine minutes to the stage lead by the first waypoint and any comeback was thwarted by picking the wrong valley later on the stage, Sainz also adding a puncture and gearbox problems to his personal list of woes.
Al-Attiyah now holds 12 minute lead over Sainz, stage winning de Villiers 46 minutes behind – ready to pick up any scraps should the rivaly between the leaders end in tears – which given the ill-tempered exchanges on stage between two over the dune of Chile is always possible.
Trucks: Chagin Back On Top
Once more the Kamaz team exchanged the lead, Vladimir Chagin finishing the day 21 minutes ahead of Firdaus Kabirov, retaking the lead in the process.
After confusion yesterday, Ales Loprais was forced to retire from the rally with engine problems leaving the Russian squad to fight to the end of the rally among themselves. Chagin's latest stage victory – adding to his considerable personal tally – equals a seventeen minute overall lead atop a Kamaz 1-2-3, leading Kabirov and Eduard Nikolaev.
There are heirs to Loprais' 'best challenger' moniker. Marcel van Vliet took third fastest on the stage in his MAN with Pep Vila fourth ahead of Ilgizar Mardeev's Kamaz.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage Ten Results
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 3:06m35
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:09m56
3 Ruben Faria (KTM) +0:13m22
4 Miran Stanovnik (KTM) +0:21m26
5 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:21m43
1 Jorge Santamarina (Honda) in 4:14m49
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:00m08
3 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) +0:03m03
4 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +0:03m52
5 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +0:04m10
1 Giniel de Villiers (VW) in 2:53m15
2 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:04m23
3 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:05m38
4 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:08m54
5 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:18m13
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 3:21m39
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:21m38
3 Marcel van Vliet (MAN) +0:34m37
4 Pep Vila (Iveco) +0:38m44
5 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +0:39m55
Overall Standings After Stage Ten
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 38:39m31
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:18m10
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:45m16
4 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1:29m37
5 Ruben Faria (KTM) +1:34m42
1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 47:48m53
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +1:11m08
3 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +2:45m56
4 Sebastian Copetti (Yamaha) +5:47m20
5 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +5:57m51
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 33:58m34
2 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:12m37
3 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:46m57
4 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +1:39m32
5 Mark Miller (VW) +3:40m43
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 38:56m38
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:17m27
3 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +2:44m06
4 Franz Echter (MAN) +4:56m26
5 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +5:06m10