Competitors on stage nine of the 2016 Dakar Rally were greeted by extreme temperatures, with the heat peaking at 47 degrees centigrade, unsurprisingly the organisers called a halt to the stage early as it took its toll across the field.
Carlos Sainz was the victor from the early finish as he leapt in to the overall lead of the rally ahead of teammate Stéphane Peterhansel. “It was a very difficult stage.” admitted Sainz. “There was a lot of off-road action on soft ground, with a lot of vegetation.
“We had to stop twice because we got stuck in the sand. I’m not sure exactly why they shortened the stage, even though it was certainly challenging due to the heat. We had three slow punctures but we didn’t have to stop to change the tyres. I’m pleased to be in the lead but it will be very difficult to open the road tomorrow on the Fiambala stage.”
Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar in the Van Loon Racing MINI ALL4 Racing suprised front runners as they put in the second fastest time of the day, “From the years we have competed at Dakar we knew today would be tough,” said Erik van Loon. “Today I started with very low tyre pressures to be better in the sand. But for the first few kilometres the stones were so big I was scared of punctures.
“It was very, very hot and the temperatures from all the sensors rose very high. I kept on driving the whole of the stage with a little margin – every time we slide the temperatures would rise. We could have easily gone the next 100km no problem. Unfortunately the bike guys were everywhere… under trees trying to find shade.” The result would move the Dutch duo up to eighth place overall.
Mikko Hirvonen continues his steep learning curve of the Dakar and managed to grab his first top three stage finish, “Today was what I was expecting from Dakar,” said Hirvonen. “It was made up of rough conditions and really hot because we had to go slow all of the time. There was also some tough navigation but Michel found all the waypoints OK. Today was the first day when it became physically demanding. We didn’t get stuck in the tricky conditions and we also had to stop to clean the radiator. Otherwise it was a good day.”
Giniel de Villiers brought his Toyota Hilux home in fourth place, just ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah who’s result helped him secure his third place in the overall standings, just ahead of team mate Mikko Hirvonen.
Cyril Despres looked set for a stage victory before he saw fellow Peugeot driver Peterhansel stopped at the side of the road, “The stage went well for us. We stayed concentrated and didn’t get stuck. It was a very difficult stage physically but we kept on the pace. We saw a car stopped on the stage, and it was Stéphane. When you’re part of Team Peugeot Total, you owe it to everyone to help the team lose as little time as possible. We gave him a spare wheel. Without this delay, I think we could have hoped for the stage victory today.”
Previous overall leader Peterhansel had a day to forget, “We had lots of problems today. There was plenty of vegetation, including some thorny bits, and we had two punctures. We got stuck twice: not in the actual dunes but in some soft ground. I slowed down a bit before coming into a hole and remained blocked there. At the end of the stage, with plenty of vegetation jamming the radiators, I had to slow down so that the engine didn’t overheat. We lost a lot of time today. Tomorrow the Fiambala stage will be crucial for the rest of the rally.”
With Despres stopping to help and Peterhansel’s problems, the Peugeot duo finished the stage in sixth and seventh respectivly.
Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena faced another tough day, following on from their role on the previous stage they got stuck in the sand four times; To make matters worse the duo lost another hour and thirteen minutes as they had to change a shaft 30km from the end of the stage.
Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport director added “We knew full well that these first few days of the second week would be extremely complicated. And our fears have been realised. Nonetheless, we remain with two cars at the front, even though Stéphane lost plenty of time.
“Nasser is just 14 minutes behind and our objective remains the same: to bring all four cars to the finish at Rosario. Our drivers are all here to serve the team and they are fully aware of that. But for now, given the very small advantage we have over Nasser Al-Attiyah, it would be suicidal to impose team orders.”
Britain’s Harry Hunt continues to solider one and is currently in twelfth place overall, just fifteen minutes ahead of Loeb.
In the Bike class Toby Price took another stage victory ahead of Ricky Brabec and Antoine Meo, the stage victory puts the Australian 28 minutes 59 seconds ahead of the second placed Stefan Svitko. Marcos Patronelli continues to lead the Quad bike category, despite losing out on the stage to Pablo Copetti and Allejandro Patronelli. Gerard de Rooy continues to dominate the Truck class.