Chilecito – Fiambala
Cars, Trucks 177km; Bikes, Quads 265km
Stage five took the rally into the first real dunes of the 2012 route with the four classes taking wildly different roots to Fiambala – the beginning of their Andes crossing on the way to Chile. Though – after bad weather had forced the stage to be cut in length – short on kilometres compared to some of the other tests of the first week the stage still included some tests, including sand dunes, which would make their mark on the overall standings. The stages around Fiambala have become infamous in the history of the Dakar in South America, twice Carlos Sainz lost a near certain victory there. Whether Fiambala will have a similar effect in 2012 still remains to be seen, with a week of racing remaining.
Bikes: Despres Versus Coma (Again)
If the bike class was a battle between Frenchman Cyril Despres and Spaniard Marc Coma before the bikers hit the stage from Chilecito then by the time night fell on Fiambala such a conclusion is almost unavoidable.
Once again the two works supported KTM riders dominated the stage, Despres taking his second stage win of 2012 and the 28th of his Dakar career. Coma was again his constant shadow – only metaphorically as Coma was first on the road – ending the stage 1:41 down on the Frenchman, who lead expanded back out 9:51.
“After the first day,” said Despres, “you could have said that lots of other riders were going to be involved in the fight, but in the end, there aren’t too many! The gaps aren’t very big at the moment and we’re playing with gaps of two minutes. Today was easier for me, because I set off behind him. Perhaps tomorrow, it will be the opposite. I’ve got a lead over him and it’s a fairly comfortable cushion. Mind you, it can disappear quickly, so I need to keep the same state of mind and the same amount of concentration.”
The man in third overall, Helder Rodrigues struggled with more of what he described as “little problems” with his Yamaha and lost over twenty minutes to the lead duo as he claimed only the fourteenth fastest time of the day. Rodrigues held on to third overall as both men immediately behind him – Francisco Lopez and Paulo Goncalves lost nineteen minutes on the stage.
The third best time on stage went to Husqvarna rider Joan Barreda Bort. After running in the top five overall after the earliest stages problems have dropped the Spaniard over three hours off the times of Despres and Coma.
Slovakian Stefan Svitko and Jordi Viladoms completed the top five, taking their first such positions of 2012.
Quads: It’s Tight At The Top
It’s a sad fact of the modern Dakar that the Quad class is almost forgotten beneath the headlines of the cars and bikes. In past years this has only – though that might not be the right word – missed dominating victories by Josef Machacek and the Patronelli brothers.
So far this year, however, skimming over the Quad race is missing perhaps the best battle so far of the 2012 Dakar.
Tomas Maffei, Alejandro Patronelli and his brother Marcos are covered in the overall standings by just two minutes, with Maffei’s lead just 35 seconds. The margins were squeezed ever tighter by the fifth stage.
Marcos (third overall) won by 1:51 from his brother (second overall) with Maffei four minutes behind the stage winning time.
Lucas Bonetto – the youngest man to start the 2012 Dakar Rally is holing firm in fourth overall, though he lost more time to the three ahead on the way to Fiambala. Ignacio Casale is the only non-Argentine in the top five, but as the race transitions into his native Chile he is two hours, 43 minutes behind Maffei in the overall standings.
Cars: More Bad Luck For Al-Attiyah
The stage for the cars began with one of the more surely one of the more unusual retirements of the 2012 event. Despite their top five stage time on stage four it appears that Orlando Terranova and his co-driver Andy Grider had an argument that led to the Argentine handing over his tracking equipment to organisers before the stage and pulling out of the event.
On stage the racing was, unfortunately, a very recognisable story. The Hummers of Nasser Al–Attiyah and Robby Gordon were again fastest through much of the stage, the Qatari leading as far as 155km before another swing of bad luck stopped the reigning champion.
Al-Attiyah explained what happened; “The spare wheel was loose and it hit the engine water pipe, breaking it and after the temperature was very high, so we stopped to repair again and lost a lot of time. But what can I do? I was really having a good run, I was doing my maximum but I don’t know what’s wrong, you know. My plan today was to take at least ten minutes from everybody and that’s what was happening because I was really fast until CP2, I think. But after, we stopped there because we needed water and to fix and prepare the car. So, yes, I’m disappointed again.”
The problem dropped another stage win into the hands to the Team X-Raid MINIs, Krzysztof Holowczyc taking the stage win by a minute ahead of Robby Gordon, the sole non-MINI in the day’s top five ahead of Peterhansel, Roma and Novitskiy. Ricardo Leal dos Santos was sixth fastest, putting all five MINI All4 Racing machines in the top six places.
Gordon is now fourth overall behind the three leading MINIs – Peterhansel, Holowczyc and Roma – and ahead of Giniel de Villiers.
The Toyota driver was the highest profile runner to lose his times stuck in the dunes, slipping almost twenty minutes off the stage lead.
“We were going quite nicely, then in the second passage of dunes we came over a crest and there was a big hole on the other side,” said the South African. “I nearly made it through the hole but we managed to get stuck quite badly and the sand was very, very soft. We had to jack the car up about five or six times just to try and get out and obviously we lost some time there, but that’s Fiambala!”
Trucks: Another Win For Iveco
Gerard de Rooy‘s lead at the end of the stage was just 14 seconds over Ales Loprais in his Tatra as the Dutchman notched up his third stage win and the fourth for Iveco after Marcel van Vliet‘s success for MAN on the opening stage.
The first stage winner of the truck race appears to have ended his race in the dunes outside Fiambala, reportedly in the same location where de Villiers had lost twenty minutes. Initially the Dutchman was said to have lost two hours, but has yet – long after that two hours has elapsed – to be credited with completing the stage.
With such a delay Van Vliet may well follow the Kamaz crew no.500 led by Eduard Nikolaev out of the rally. The Russian crew was expelled from the rally for what officials described as unsportsmanlike conduct during stage four.
2012 Dakar Rally Stage Five Results:
|3||23||Joan Barreda Bort||Husqvarna||2:41:15||+0:12:42|
|1||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||2:34:30|
Overall standings after stage five
|5||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||12:19:04||+0:21:01|
|1||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||13:44:43|