2011 Dakar Rally: Stage Two Report

Cordoba-San Miguel de Tucuman
Bikes, Quads: 300km Cars, Trucks: 324km

Stage two and the 2011 Dakar Rally swings north through Argentina. Another stage whose nature played into the hands of the WRC drivers, and another day run in heavy rain continued to whittle down the potential winners, with severe delays for some of the front running car entrants that already appear to have crippled their chances of class victory.

Bikes: Despres’ Day

After missing out on victory yesterday, as Ruben Faria – his water carrier support rider – stole the class win reigning champion Cyril Despres came out on top on the second stage after leading at every checkpoint during the day.

“Today the track was full of bends and very skiddy, like a 300-km giant slalom with jumps, like skiing,” Despres said. “I noticed at the refuelling point that I’d taken almost a minute less than Coma. I was feeling good, so I decided to attack a bit in the second part, though I was careful to look after my tyres because I nearly wore them through today.”

Faria – handed a one minute penalty for speeding through populated areas yesterday – could only manage fifth fastest, losing nearly six minutes to Despres, and with his overall lead. Despres was challenged on the times by Marc Coma, and Sherco rider David Casteu, the Frenchman bouncing back from a slow first stage to claim third fastest and leap to sixth overall, one place ahead of American Jonah Street. Street’s countryman Quinn Cody – a multiple Baja winner – was among the leading riders through the early checkpoints, before losing six minutes in the second half of the stage. He ended the stage 13th quickest.

“I felt like I could’ve rode a little faster in the morning,” Street admitted. “I felt good, but I didn’t feel like I was carrying the right speed over the rises like I should be. Overall, I’m happy with the way I rode today. There is still a long way to go. These two stages are a lot different from what we’ll see in Chile”.

Another man back at the top after a relatively slow start was Chilean ‘Chaleco’ Lopez. A dark horse for victory in the eyes of many it is a reflection on his form that seventh yesterday was a disappointment, however, fourth fastest today lifts him to fourth fastest, behind the leading KTM trio.

Yesterday’s sufferer Pal Anders Ullevalseter, struggled again, losing another 20 minutes to Despres. Meanwhile Frenchman Alain Duclos was another to struggle yesterday, the Aprilia rider telling the often cliché story of a problem with a two Euro part which caused the rear hub to blow – a “slow motion” stage yesterday left him finishing at 9:45pm yesterday – five hours off the pace. Soldiering on he recorded the 19th best time on the second stages.

Quads: Premiere Patronelli

Alejandro Patronelli took a narrow win the in quad stage. The Argentine trailed yesterday’s pace setter Josef Machacek at the first checkpoint but led through the remaining nine split times, pulling out as much a two minutes lead before the Czech rider fought back to minimise the loss at just 23 seconds at the end of the stage.

“I just wanted to ride the stage,” Patronelli said. “I was not aiming for victory at all today. It was a clean stage, quite nice and not dangerous. There were a lot of bikes and plenty of dust. I was able to overtake a few bikers, but after that it got more difficult. It’s good to have won, but being 2nd in the general standings doesn’t mean much. For instance, if I get a puncture tomorrow, I could end up way back in the field. So, I’m going to continue racing my way, taking it day by day and trying to do the best I can”.

The result means Patronelli splits the Czechs Machacek and Plechaty as he moves into second place, the other Patronelli brother, however, languishes at the wrong end of the class standings – initially credited with the ninth fastest time on the first stage last year’s winner was given a colossal six hour penalty. Sergio la Fuente, initially fifth fastest was another to be penalised, though the 24 minutes lost pales in comparison to the nearly two hours lost on stage today.

The immediate beneficiary, in starting the day in fifth overall, Tomas Maffei, consolidated his top five standing with third fastest today, ahead of Sebastian Halpern, Plechaty and the penalised Patronelli.

Cars: A Second For Sainz

VW driver Carlos Sainz increased his lead in the fledgling class standings for the car entrants, taking a second win as yesterday’s runner-up Stephane Peterhansel lost a further 1m34 to the Spaniard, though he held to second overall.

It was, predictably another benefit for the diesel powered VW and BMW entrants, Nasser Al-Attiyah splitting Sainz and Peterhansel, taking second in his Touareg, with 2009 champion Giniel de Villiers taking fourth on the stage.

However, the fourth VW was the first to hit trouble. Just 45km into the 324km stage Mark Miller crashed, severely damaging his car – a broken windscreen, the bonnet ripped off and the right side door refusing to close. 20 minutes lost after the crash were compounded by another 17 minute halt later in the stage and the damage to the car forcing the American to continue the stage off the pace, the day ending with the loss of over 50 minutes.

“In a bend, we skidded and lost control of the car,” Miller describes the moment his Dakar went awry. “We rolled before we could get back on the track. After that, we had to stop and repair, especially the power steering. It was a really bad day for me. We’ll be able to continue, but now we’ll be driving to help the others now”.

It was not a good day for Americans in the cars as Hummer driver Robby Gordon also struggled, his 2WD car again ill-suited to the wet trails of the day. An off on a corner lodged the Hummer against a rock, Gordon having to enlist local help – people and a Fiat Panda, in a shade of orange deliciously close to that of the Hummer – to put him back into the rally. He ended the stage 55 minutes adrift of the ultimate stage time, the popular driver’s aims to keep with 10 minutes of the lead a distant hope after just two days. Hummer misery did not stop at Gordon, his teammate (former F1 driver Eliseo Salazar) losing four-and-a-half hours on stage today.

Moving in the other direction – forwards after a slow first day – was Guerlain Chicherit. The Frenchman claimed the seventh fastest time on stage in his Monster Energy backed MINI, behind his BMW X3 driving X-Raid Team teammates Orlando Terranova and Krzysztof Holowczyc who took fifth fastest on stage and fifth fastest overall respectively with Miller’s demise.

Trucks: Not Chagin Again

For much of the day it looked like Vladimir Chagin – the man known as ‘The Tsar’ – would take a second stage win and extend his lead among the trucks. The Russian led through all but one of the day’s nine tracking checkpoints.

However, a late problem saw his slip to fifth fastest on the day, his Kamaz teammate Firduas Kabirov keeping the team’s record intact by taking the stage win and moving to the overall lead after just two stages.

The top three are covered by just 22 seconds, Chagin in third behind Ales Loprais, who took second fastest on stage again today to install himself as the biggest challenge to the Kamaz crews.

German Franz Echter drove his MAN to third fastest today, with Brazilian Andre de Azevedo fourth. Racing journeyman Jan Lammers was creditable 18th fastest on the stage, and sits 31st overall.

2011 Dakar Rally Stage Two Results:

1 Cyril Despres (KTM) in 3:19m11
2 Marc Coma (KTM) +0:01m49
3 David Casteu (KTM) +0:03m46
4 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:04m06
5 Ruben Faria (KTM) +0:05m42

1 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) in 3:40m35
2 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +0:00m23
3 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) +0:04m21
4 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:05m04
5 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0:07:03

1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 3:11m28
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:01m03
3 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:01m34
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:05m43
5 Orlando Terranova (BMW) +0:08m14

1 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) in 3:50m46
2 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:01m20
3 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:05m09
4 Andre de Azevedo (Tatra) +0:05m16
5 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0:06m14

Overall Rankings After Stage Two

1 Cyril Despres (KTM) in 5:17m42
2 Marc Coma (KTM) +0:02m35
3 Ruben Faria (KTM) +0:06m13
4 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0:06m51
5 Paulo Goncalves (BMW) +0:09m28

1 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) in 5:55m05
2 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0:05m01
3 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:07m45
4 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0:07m46
5 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) +0:10m24

1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 5:29m20
2 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:03m45
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:03m59
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:11m29
5 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:16m44

1 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) in 6:41m00
2 Alex Loprais (Tatra) +0:00m09
3 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0:00m22
4 Andre de Azevedo (Tatra) +0:09m59
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:14m21