San Juan – Chilelcito
The longest stage of the Dakar Rally so far this year was always likely to be the venue for some shuffling of the order. If the sheer distance involved was not enough of an issue another stage set in the mountains and canyons of the Andes presented yet more difficulties for the competitors. As the general classification in all four class begins to settle down after the swings of the early stages it is too early to tell if time lost on the way to Chilecito will be crucial in Lima, but it’s entirely possible.
Bikes: Coma Claws Back
After losing his lead to a navigational error on stage three Marc Coma won back two minutes over rally leader Cyril Despres as the two works KTM riders – though separated on the road were together on the times through the day’s checkpoints.
Able to turn his relatively lowly starting position (sixth) to his advantage Coma followed the riders ahead, easing navigational concerns while constantly making up time on all those ahead.
Such was Coma’s pace that he finished the stage riding with Dutchman Frans Verhoeven who started the stage second. The Sherco rider, unlike Coma had had to contend with problems on the stage as he explained afterwards;
“I set off at a very fast pace this morning and was riding in the wake of Cyril, whom I saw in front of me. Everything went OK until 4 km before the refuelling point, when the motorcycle had an electrical problem and refused to start. I noticed part of the rear of the motorcycle had been ripped off, destroying the fuse. I replaced it with some wire and continued to the refuelling point, where I used the allowed 15 minutes to fill my tank and make some repairs.”
Verhoeven was not alone in losing time. David Casteu, third on the previous stage lost fifteen minutes to Coma, dropping out of the top five overall. Francisco Lopez – who started the rally so well with victory on the opening stage continued to slip away from the two horse race apparent at the head of the class. ‘Chaleco’ was good enough only for ninth on stage today after making the same navigation mistake as Casteu and is now fourth overall, very nearly half an hour off the pace and three minutes behind Helder Rodrigues who has taken third overall.
Quads: Argentinean Civil War For Victory?
If the Bike class can already be considered an intra-marque battle between the leading KTMs then the Quad class is a civil war between a trio of Yamaha straddling Argentines.
Tomas Maffei and the Patronelli brothers – Alejandro and Marcos – now have a one hour advantage in the overall standings over their countryman Lucas Bonetti after the 20-year-old stopped on stage with a mechanical problem before continuing and finishing today’s stage 31 minutes slower than Maffei, who took his third career Dakar stage win following his two successes from 2011.
In contrast to the gap to fourth the leading three are covered by just 6:10, Marcos losing the lead partly down to a small navigational mistake after 99km of the stage. An early engine problem for Pablo Sebastian Copetti, who started the stage first after winning stage three, left the younger Patronelli to open the road of the quad class.
There were further problems for Sergio la Fuente, who won the opening two stages, suffered problems on stage – including a puncture – and lost a total of two hours, 45 minutes on stage.
Cars: Al-Attiyah quick, Peterhansel Consistent
That Stephane Peterhansel won the stage and retook the overall lead only a day after falling from first to fifth is only the start of the story of the stage for the cars.
Other than the final 40km this was another stage all about Nasser Al–Attiyah displaying the brutal potential of the Hummer H3 when the terrain suits the Robby Gordon Motorsport run machine. The Qatari led the stage times at all of the way points, eventually enjoying a lead of over three minutes over Peterhansel after 262km.
Al-Attiyah’s charge, however, came to an end in mud at 288km.
“Towards the end of the special,” he explained, “we got stuck in the mud and it took us a long time to get out of it… But the race is not over yet and we will try to do our best over the next ten days. I am starting to get the feel of my car. This morning we were moving at a great pace, setting the best times without pushing too hard. We actually overtook two of the Minis. So we will see what we can do.”
It was teammate Robby Gordon, running some distance behind after losing time to punctures in the early kilometres to pull him free, but not before 27 minutes had ebbed away in favour of Peterhansel.
Behind the Frenchman Orlando Terranova made his first appearance in a stage top five, this year with co-driver Andy Grider, a man who in the past has shared a Hummer with Robby Gordon, ahead of Giniel de Villiers. De Villiers, as yet, has been the quiet man of the race, never fastest but also never losing time and his steady pace means he is now second overall.
Nani Roma and Krzysztof Holowczyc are third and fourth, with Gordon fifth after his delays on the stage. Al-Attiyah, sixth overall at the start of the day has slipped a place further back – now behind MINI driver Leonid Novitskiy and 30 minutes down on Peterhansel.
Trucks: Iveco Show The Way
Iveco’s three lead crews, with drivers Gerard de Rooy, Hans Stacey and Miki Biasion not only finished 1-2-3 on stage four, but hold the same places in the overall standings.
The leader at the start of the day – Artur Ardavichus – has slipped to fifth overall after losing 13 minutes today. While the Kazakh driver remains the lead Kamaz in the overall standings Eduard Nikolaev – the de jure team leader among the Russian manufacturer’s entries carrying the no.500 plate was the best on stage, fifth overall. In doing so he split the MAN teammates Marcel Van Vliet and Franz Echter.
Overall the lead three are split by just three minutes, with Tatra driver Ales Loprais ten minutes further in arrears.
De Rooy dominated the stage, leading at all way points as his teammates and Van Vliet fought for the minor positions on the day.
2012 Dakar Rally Stage Four Results
|3||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||3:56:15||+0:06:42|
|1||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||4:22:12|
|4||507||Marcel van Vliet||MAN||4:28:34||+0:06:22|
Overall standings after stage four
|2||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||9:49:01||+0:05:41|
|1||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||11:10:13|