The big news from Chile today was Stephane Peterhansels brilliant yet unlucky run through the Atacama Desert. The Frenchman was flying through the stage early on but suffered a staggering 4 flat tires on the special. This caused him to enter the Arica bivouac 5th on the stage. The VW’s lined up at the dusty and silty special finish, all in the top 4 for the day. RDC drove out into the Atacama Desert to get a perspective of the dry vastness of this virtual wasteland and saw the lead cars coming through the dunes.
Peterhansel came flying down a 300’ dune followed by the four VW’s. He and Al-Attiyah were the fastest, both taking an aggressive and shorter line across the face while the others opted for a more conservative and time consuming line, thus hitting a number of sand whoops. We must note that down here, the whoops we’re familiar with in North America are virtually non existent around here, especially in this rally. The whoops we see are created by the harsh winds, not years of pre-running and racing over the same tracks.
Today’s special stage was both long and gnarly, costing Peterhansel four punctured tires and a second stage win. Had he not had the flats, he would’ve spanked the VW camp’s 4 Touareg 3’s by a nice margin.
The bikes found today’s stage long and gnarly as well, with both American contenders finding challenges out on the course. Jonah Street was right up front and having a great moring exchanging navigating duty with Norweigian Pal Anders Ullavester. With only 110km to go the the finish, Street lost his bike’s seat and then had to try and repair the situation to no avail. Street gave up the effort and rode nearly ninety miles standing up and having to baby the bike to save the CDI box which is normally held in place by the seat. It was a dicey gamble for Street, one on which he had no choice. Had he lost the CDI box, it would have been over for street. In the bivouac, he was elated with the fact he still held up as 7th overall for the rally and is looking forward to the next few stages where he thinks he can move up.
Quinn Cody had another “gnarly” day and was picking off other riders in the early dunes of the stage. He started 22nd and was moving up when he stopped to aid a fallen rider from Brazil who was down with a broken collarbone. Everyone Quinn had passed had gotten him back. Still, he finished the stage 13th and his handlers are appealing to the DAKAR organizers to adjust his time, something that is commonly done at the DAKAR. In either event, Quinn Cody knows the that he certainly did the right thing.
In the bivouac, many of the “tourists” are falling out of the rally and today’s scene was proving that the rally is starting to live up to its reputation as the toughest on the planet.