San Juan – Cordoba
Bikes, Quads, Cars: 555km; Trucks: 266km
Stage Twelve marked the penultimate stage of the 2011 Dakar Rally, and the final ‘real’ challenge for the 205 crews authorised to take the start of the special. With Saturday’s final stage looking like more of a straightforward task in comparison, those in the lead needed to take the special with caution. Although it would now be difficult for those behind to make up ground, those ahead could still throw it all away – as proven by Carlos Sainz who lost over an hour on the preceding stage. With the start of the special too narrow for the trucks, they started from the 237km point. Heavy rain made conditions extremely difficult, which resulted in the cars’ special being split into two with a neutralised section in the middle.
Bikes: Despres takes the stage win, but Coma still in control
Cyril Despres opened the special after his stage win yesterday, and set the pace early on, leading for most of the way. However, Marc Coma attacked towards the end of the stage. The Spaniard overturned a 1m45 deficit to Despres at the fourth and final checkpoint, winning the stage by 37 seconds.
“Today was complicated due to all the rain that fell last night,” said Coma, whose lead over Despres at the head of the general standings lies at more than 16 seconds ahead of the final stage. “As a result, it was a very technical stage, like in endurance racing. But it went fine. There is still a 190-km stage left to race tomorrow. Normally, there shouldn’t be any complications, but we still need to race them, it’s there to be done. It just shows that the route has been designed to ensure that there is suspense up to the end, so we’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow”.
Despres said: “I had to go on the attack, it’s a bit second nature for me anyway, so I’ve been going for it since the first kilometre, even if I slowed a bit at the end. At least it’s good to not have any regrets. I gave it everything I had and it was a long day. It must have rained a lot last night because the tracks were churned up with lots of mud. It was hellish. My chances are looking slimmer though.”
As has been the case throughout the rally, the KTM pair were some way ahead of the competition. Helder Rodrigues, fourth overall, finished the stage in third, over seven minutes off Coma. Francisco Lopez Contardo, who has been the best of the rest behind the leading pair for much of the rally, was fourth, just ahead of Quinn Alexis Cody, the American debutant putting in another impressive performance.
Alain Duclos, Henk Knuiman and Teus Visser came unstuck in the tricky conditions, missing the 63km loop before CP4, instead taking the day’s truck route. They are likely to receive heavy time penalties – Knuiman had been lying in tenth position coming into the stage.
Quads: Declerck flies to stage victory, Patronelli cruising to the rally win
Christophe Declerck came out on top in a tight three-way fight for the stage win in the quad category. The Polaris rider finished up fourteen seconds ahead of Stage Eleven winner Sebastian Halpern, with Lukasz Laskawiec two-and-a-half minutes behind Declerck.
General standings leader Alejandro Patronelli clearly took it easy on the stage, finishing 8m28 behind the winner, fourth fastest. The Argentine still holds a healthy 58 minute lead overall over compatriot Halpern.
Cars: Sainz recovers to take stage victory, Al-Attiyah cautious
Sainz recovered from losing over an hour on Stage Eleven to take his sixth stage win of the rally and his 23rd career Dakar win. The Spaniard started the stage 14th on the road, but overtook ten competitors through the mud thrown up by those in front. Despite a suffering a puncture, he beat VW teammate Giniel de Villiers by 2m43. The result strengthens Sainz’s third place overall, ahead of Stephane Peterhansel.
“It went well,” said Sainz after the stage. “This victory is a small consolation. We drove well. We had to overtake a lot of competitors. There was a lot of dust and we had a puncture. But the main thing is that we finished the day and Stephane Peterhansel didn’t get any closer to us.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah was understandably cautious on the penultimate stage, with his general standings lead made far more comfortable by Sainz’s issues on the previous test. He finished the stage in third, 6m11 behind Sainz. His overall lead stands at 48m21 over de Villiers with just the one stage to go. The Qatari’s first Dakar win is well and truly in sight.
“It’s a very difficult feeling, you know because you need a lot of concentration from the start until the finish,” said Al-Attiyah. “You don’t want to make any mistakes. It really was the hardest stage of my life, because I had to keep concentrated and not make any mistakes. Sometimes I was going fast, sometimes slow because I needed to keep my concentration and keep the same pace, but it was ok. We finished the stage without any problems and I’m really quite happy.”
Trucks: Chagin heading towards seventh title
Vladimir Chagin continued where he left off on Stage Eleven, scoring his seventh stage win of the 2011 edition, his 63rd career win. The “Tsar” defeated Kamaz teammate and fellow Russian Firdaus Kabirov by a slim 48 second margin over the trucks’ shorter route, extending the gap between the pair to 31m19. Spaniard Pep Vila impressed again after finishing second on Stage Eleven to finish third on Twelve in his Iveco, 4m29 behind Chagin.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage Twelve Results
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 6:42m42
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:00m37
3 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +0:07m21
4 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:10m03
5 Quinn Alexis Cody (Aprilia) +0:15m43
1 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) in 8:30m07
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:00m14
3 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) +0:02m32
4 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0:08m28
5 Pablo Copetti (Yamaha) +0:33m33
1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 5:37m18
2 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:02m43
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:06m11
4 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:06m55
5 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:13m11
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 2:45m34
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:00m48
3 Pep Vila (Iveco) +0:04m29
4 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:06m43
5 Hugo Duisters (Iveco) +0:07m45
Overall Standings After Stage Twelve
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 49:57m37
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:16m36
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:59m27
4 Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1:42m31
5 Juan Pedrero Garcia (KTM) +3:06m14
1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 62:07m34
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:58m18
3 Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +6:21m32
4 Lukasz Laskawiec (Yamaha) +6:24m51
5 Pablo Copetti (Yamaha) +7:00m02
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 43:59m30
2 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:48m21
3 Carlos Sainz (VW) +1:21m16
4 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +1:41m29
5 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +4:10m44
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 46:54m14
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:31m19
3 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +3:15m45
4 Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz) +5:42m26
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +5:44m40