Date: Monday 11th January
Location: Sakaka > Neom
Distance: 334km liaison + 375km special
As we started a new week, the Dakar competitors awoke in the bivouac with the second half of the ‘marathon stage’ ahead of them, though some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen on the Dakar so far. But with it, it presented many challenges for the crews and riders with the rocky terrain and canyons and cliffs that greeted them. A number of competitors succumbed to punctures in the early part of the stage, losing valuable time in the race to the top of the overall standings.
Nasser Al-Attiyah took his fortieth Dakar stage win on the road to Neom, which sees the Qatari in the record books with the third highest number of stage wins on the Dakar of all time. Stephane Peterhansel and Ari Vatanan sit ahead of him with 47 and 50 Dakar stage wins respectively.
During today’s stage the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver halved the deficit to leader, X-Raid Mini JCW Team’s, Peterhansel overall; the gap between the pair is now less than six minutes. Peterhansel started second on the road and soon caught up to yesterday’s winner Yazeed Al Rajhi who was running up ahead, and was able to lead for most of the stage. The Frenchman lost time towards the end of the stage, not only allowing Al-Attiyah to claw back time to close in in the overall standings, but also for team-mate Carlos Sainz to pass into second place.
Just outside the podium positions, Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi scored his best result of this year’s Dakar, setting the fourth fastest time, just seven minutes behind the leader. This marked a solid day in the desert for the Abu Dhabi Racing Team.
Sebastien Loeb’s misfortunes continued into stage eight with the nine-time World Rally Champion encountering further punctures in the opening 80 kilometres of the test. It went from bad to worse for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme driver and his co-pilot Daniel Elena as they were forced to retire from the 2021 Dakar Rally after being stranded in the middle of the stage for over five hours; as it was part of the marathon stage, the pair had used the only spare tyre they were carrying to remedy the first puncture. Loeb’s team-mate Nani Roma continues the campaign for the BRX outfit, currently fifth in the overall standings.
- Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 02:56:56s
- Carlos Sainz / Lucas Cruz – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 02:57:48s
- Stephane Peterhansel / Edouard Boulanger – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 02:59:59s
Overall classification after Stage 8:
- Stephane Peterhansel / Edouard Boulanger – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 29:35:49s
- Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 29:41:39s
- Carlos Sainz / Lucas Cruz – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 30:15:44s
As mentioned, overnight the riders had no mechanical assistance from their crews and only had the tools available to them at the bivouac and their own skills to fix their bikes: Enter Toby Price and his iconic tyre repair.
The tyre repair kit favoured by the Red Bull KTM Factory rider wasn’t your usual. Heavy impact on a rock split the entire length of the Michelin tyres the Australian was using, and armed with heavy-duty tape and cable ties, he showcased some epic bush mechanics to make his KTM 450 Factory ready to race on stage eight.
To everyone’s surprise, Price pulled it out of the bag and to place second on stage, only a minute behind Jose Cornejo, the stage winner. The pair had started this morning’s stage with just one second splitting their overall times, now one minute separates the pair at the top of the overall standings.
Cornejo’s team-mate Ricky Brabec was first on the road, but was soon overtaken by the Chilean. Brabec finished in third place.
Sam Sunderand continued his consistent scoring, keeping pace alongside Skyler Howes through the majority of the second half of the marathon, to cross the finish in Neom with the fourth fastest time – just under four minutes down on Cornejo in the lead. The Briton retained third place in the general ranking just under six minutes adrift of Cornejo.
Laia Sanz leads the women’s class after a consistent run on this year’s rally raid. The Spaniard arrived in Neom with the 27th fastest time around 34 minutes back from the lead riders, and now leads the women’s class ahead of Sara Garcia who is 10 hours down on the Gas Gas Factory Team rider.
Xavier De Soultrait had a steady race through today’s test, however that was to end at the 268km mark with the HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing rider, crashing out and being airlifted to hospital for medical assistance. This marked the end of the Frenchman’s 2021 campaign.
Francisco Lopez won his fourth stage of the 2021 rally raid which brings him up to third in the overall Lightweights standings, up from fourth. Less than 20 minutes now covers the top three: Austin Jones, Seth Quintero and Lopez.
Red Bull Off-Road Team USA’s Quintero completed stage eight in three-and-three-quarter hours and four minutes down on rival Jones who finished just ahead in fifth place. It means now that ten minutes separates the pair at the top of the category standings.
Aron Domzala lost the overall lead through the second part of the marathon stage, being down on pace across the 375km special stage due to changing the driveshaft on his Can-Am overnight.
Sergei Kariakin of Snag Racing Team put on a dutiful display, coming second in the stage by only 52 seconds.
Cristina Gutierrez had been running in tenth in the overall standings through the last three stages, finishing yesterday’s stage in fifth place. However the Spaniard suffered with gearbox issues on the road section, meaning she failed to start the stage. Let’s hope it is repaired in time for the Red Bull Off-Road Team USA driver to restart her 2021 campaign tomorrow.
Kamaz remain unbeatable in the Truck category, with the marque holding the top three positions in the overall as well as in today’s stage. Anton Shibalov took victory two-and-a-half minutes ahead of Dmitry Sotnikov. Sotnikov had a very tense stage, with the Russian having to avoid a great number of vehicles ahead of him through the dust – he overtook a total of around 30 vehicles. Kamaz team-matye Andrey Karginov completed the podium, in third, a minute behind Sotnikov.
Elsewhere, Aliaksei Vishneuski finished four minutes behind the podium finishers, eating into the small margin Martin Macik has over him, lying fifth in the overall standings. Macik came unstuck during stage eight, after losing a steering arm on the previous stage.
Ales Loprais remains in fourth in the overall standings, maintaining the fifteen minute gap between the Czech and Airat Mardeev of Kamaz who sits ahead in third place.
- Jose Cornejo – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 03:08:40s
- Toby Price – Red Bull KTM Factory Team – 03:09:45s
- Ricky Brabec – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 03:11:30s
Overall after stage 8:
- Jose Cornejo – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 32:00:11s
- Toby Price – Red Bull KTM Factory Team – 32:01:17s
- Sam Sunderland – Red Bull KTM Factory Team – 32:06:08s
- Francisco Lopez Contardo / Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre – South Racing Can-Am – 03:47:45s
- Sergei Kariakin / Anton Vlasiuk – Snag Racing Team – 03:38:37s
- Reinaldo Varela / Maykel Justo – Monster Energy Can-Am – 03:39:16s
Overall after stage 8:
- Austin Jones / Gustavo Gugelmin – Monster Energy Can-Am – 36:12:48s
- Seth Quintero / Dennis Zenz – Red Bull Off-Road Team USA – 36:23:19s
- Francisco Lopez Contardo / Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre – South Racing Can-Am – 36:33:39s
- Anton Shibalov / Dmitrii Nikitin / Ivan Tatarinov – Kamaz-Master – 03:19:40s
- Dmitry Sotnikov / Ruslan Akhmadeev / Ilgiz Akhmetzianov – Kamaz-Master – 03:22:28s
- Andrey Karginov / Andrey Mokeev / Igor Leonov – Kamaz Master – 03:22:59s
Overall after stage 8:
- Dmitry Sotnikov / Ruslan Akhmadeev / Ilgiz Akhmetzianov – Kamaz-Master – 32:34:18s
- Anton Shibalov / Dmitrii Nikitin / Ivan Tatarinov – Kamaz-Master – 33:17:46s
- Airat Mardeev / Dmitriy Svistunov / Akhmet Galiautdinov – Kamaz Master – 33:17:46s