Copiapo – Antofagasta
After the rest day comes the longest stage of the 2012 Dakar Rally and the start of the northward swing along the Pacific seaboard towards the finish line in Lima. The new route aside the route between Copiapo and Antofagasta through the Atacama Desert have the mainstay of the Dakar since the move to South America. One of the toughest days of the 2012 rac saw the lead change in one class, while the order shuffled in all the others as we moved a day closer to knowing the winners.
Bikes: Coma Takes Advantage
The two man battle at the front of the bike race swung dramatically in the opening kilometres of the stage. First Coma – opening the road after winning Saturday's seventh stage – lost time after a minor navigation error. However, the mistake meant he avoided a muddy river in which several other of the leading riders got caught in, including chief rival and overall leader Cyril Despres.
“There was a torrent of mud between the inspection of the reconnaissance car two days ago and today,” said the Frenchman. “Therefore, it did not appear in the road book and I was the first to fall into the trap. There was no way I could have avoided it.”
Despres' issues where quickly apparent to Coma who pused as hard as he dare for much of the stage in order to capitalise on the problems for his fellow KTM rider. The combination of the time lost in the mud and the time Coma clawed back throughout the stage totalled over 17 minutes at the end of the stage. After the completion of the stage rally organisers too the decision to discount the time Despres and others – including Helder Rodrigues, and Pal Anders Ullevalseter – lost in the mud, cutting Despres' time lost to just 9:14. However it was still enough for Coma to move into the overall lead.
“A very long special,” Coma said. “I was lucky not to lose too much time in the mud and then I saw I could open a gap, so I attacked really hard. But towards the end I noticed I had engine problems towards the end, so I took slowed down a bit to ensure I would make it to the finish. This is my 20th special victory: a nice figure. Yet it is not winning specials that counts, but winning the race. And I know there is still a long week of racing ahead.”
Quads: Alejandro's To Lose
After leaping into a lead of over an hour thank to mistakes by his brother Marcos and Tomas Maffei, Alejandro Patronelli now looks certain to defend his class title, barring serious mishap in the remaining stages.
On the potentially difficult stage the elder of the Argentine brothers held strong, only surrendering the lead to Marcos in the closing kilometres to preserve his massive overall advantage as Tomas Maffei is over an hour behind after slipping another nine minutes into arrears on stage eight.
“A long, tough and fast stage,” Alejandro analysed. “The final part was also complicated. I am very happy and thank God I made it to the finish. I started among the motorcycles. I feared it might be complicated, but things turned out OK. I had the entire course to myself and was able to set a good pace. Most of the stage was full of rocks and my hands hurt a bit. But I am really happy. The classification is not my main concern.”
Cars: The Tale Of Two Hummers
For the first time, Robby Gordon's team of Dakar Hummers have two truly competitive drivers, but thus far the Dakar seems intent on treating them in two different ways.
Defending champion and Hummer new recruit Nasser Al-Attiyah endured yet more niggling technical problems – the alternator, engine belt and a loose spare wheel – delaying the Qatari. When now slowed by his problems he was again the fastest man on stage, overtaking all the MINIs during the passage of the stage as he only lost eight minutes to stage winner Nani Roma after having been as far as nineteen minutes adrift after the opening exchanges.
Robby Gordon in the other Hummer, meanwhile, continues to win back time, slicing into Stephane Peterhansel's overall lead. The American led the stage during the first half, but the MINIs of Peterhansel, Roma and Krzysztof Holowczyc were ahead by the half way point, before Gordon began to gain once more.
Roma won the stage – his second of 2012 – by just five seconds from Gordon who was over five minutes ahead of Peterhansel who was hampered by a puncture only 30km from the end of the timed section.
Peterhansel's overall lead is now just seven minutes over Gordon in second and Krzysztof Holowczyc in third – the pair split by only twelve seconds. Roma lies fourth overall with Giniel de Villiers fifth, 37 minutes down on Peterhansel.
Trucks: Stage Win For Loprais
After consecutive second places on the two previous stages Czech driver Ales Loprais claimed his first 2012 stage win ahead of overall lead Gerard de Rooy.
De Rooy's Iveco teammate Miki Biasion was third fastest on the day, though his problems before the rest day have rule the Italian out of challenging for the overall podium – he is more than six hours away from the overall lead – he still has the capability to add to the single stage win already to his name this year.
Loprais' stage win has moved him to just 15 minutes down on the overall lead, with Hans Stacey also constant in third, though the Dutchman 15 minutes to De Rooy.
2012 Dakar Stage Eight Results
|2||6||Pal Anders Ullevalseter||KTM||5:05:47||+0:01:55|
|5||23||Joan Barreda Bort||Husqvarna||5:12:36||+0:08:44|
|5||263||Sergio La Fuente||Yamaha||6:45:37||+0:31:30|
|2||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||5:08:48||+0:01:31|
Overall standings after stage eight
|5||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||20:42:00||+0:45:25|
|1||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||23:14:03|