Wednesday, January 16
There was a fair amount of chaos in the Peruvian dunes on the penultimate stage of the 2019 Dakar Rally. For many it was a final chance to claw back some serious time on their rivals. The soft sands of Pisco ended up biting hard and took the Dakar’s most successful ever competitor out of the race.
13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and co-driver David Castera (FRA) started stage nine in determined fashion. They had fallen out of the podium positions on the previous stage and were battling to get back into the Top 3. Unfortunately, their MINI John Cooper Works Buggy suffered a hard impact in the dunes after 26 kilometres of the stage and the pair’s Dakar ended right there.
“We came over a dune and landed head-on in the next dune. Everything went so fast that David (Castera), who was looking at the roadbook at that moment, didn’t expect the impact.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
The men Peterhansel was chasing were race leaders Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and Mathieu Baumel (FRA). This duo in their Toyota Hilux suffered no such problems as their near faultless Dakar drive continued today. The 2015 Dakar winners are now just one stage away from recapturing their crown.
“Tomorrow we just need to bring it home to Lima. Always we try to do our best because it’s really not easy here. Everyday we work really hard to have a good speed and not to make any mistakes.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Al-Attiyah is being supported every step of the way by his Toyota team-mate Giniel De Villiers (ZAF). De Villiers is sticking as close as he can to Al-Attiyah out on the stage, just in case he can lend a hand along the way.
“We just tried to follow the tracks of Nasser in case he needed us, but he did a great job. For us as a team our aim is to get Nasser to the line in first place.” – Giniel De Villiers
Bouncing back from a tricky start to the Dakar’s second week has been Kuba Przygonski (POL). The 2018 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup winner capitalised on misfortune for Peterhansel, Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Cyril Despres (FRA) today. The Pole now sits fourth overall with a single stage remaining, 31m behind Loeb who occupies the final podium place.
“We’re so happy that we’ve been able to be competitive in our car against the other teams.” – Kuba Przygonski
The mass start in the bike race saw the top riders grouped together on the stage. This was good news for race leader Toby Price (AUS) who only conceded one second to his closest rival Pablo Quintanilla (CHI). Price now has a lead of 1m02s to protect on the final run to Lima.
“Today was all about being smooth and consistent, there wasn’t really the chance to break away. I just needed to keep everyone in sight and that’s what we managed to do.” – Toby Price
Third overall in the bike race is defending champion Matthias Walkner (AUT) who, like Price, has been carrying an injury during the race. With Price’s broken bone in his wrist and Walkner’s damaged ankle, to see these two on the podium at the end of the rally would represent a monumental achievement.
Price and Walkner’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders – Sam Sunderland (GBR), Luciano Benavides (ARG) and Laia Sanz (ESP) – are all in and around the Top 10. A clear demonstration of the team’s rally-raid quality as they chase their 18th consecutive Dakar victory.
“There was some chaos at the beginning. We started as the first 10 bikes all together in the dunes. I got lost for about five minutes in the fog and after that I pushed a lot to catch the front group.” – Luciano Benavides
On course for victory on his Dakar debut in the SxS/UTV class is Chaleco Lopez (CHI). The Chilean driver takes an advantage of nearly an hour over second placed Gerard Farres Guell (ESP) into the final stage.
“We’ll take care now on the final stage, watch out for the tyres. Only at the finish line will we stop to reflect on our result.” – Chaleco Lopez
There was another twist in the battle between the two Team Kamaz Master truckers vying for supremacy at this edition of the Dakar. Reigning champion Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) took the overall lead back off team-mate Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) after besting his time on stage by 27 minutes.
Now only tomorrow’s final stage of 112 kilometres separates the convoy from the finish line. It’s still one more tricky day to navigate before successful competitors can look back on a job well done. It’ll take nerves of steel to secure that spot on the podium once and for all. And then the party can get started!
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2019 Dakar Rally Car Race Top 5 (after nine stages of 10)
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota 33h09m12s
2019 Dakar Rally Bike Race Top 5 (after nine stages of 10)
1. Toby Price (AUS) KTM 32h43m15s
2019 Dakar Rally Truck Race Top 5 (after nine stages of 10)
1. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz 39h24m52s
2019 Dakar Rally SxS/UTV Race Top 5 (after nine stages of 10)
1. Chaleco Lopez (CHI) Can-Am 40h47m46s
2019 Dakar Rally Quad Race Top 5 (after nine stages of 10)
1. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) Yamaha 41h22m21s
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “Today was very difficult, not easy at all. A lot of soft sand. We took it easy and we did a really good job. Until now everything has been going very well. Tomorrow we just need to bring it home to Lima. Always we try to do our best because it’s really not easy here. Everyday we work really hard to have a good speed and not to make any mistakes.”
Giniel De Villiers: “The aim this morning was just to follow Nasser (Al-Attiyah). We let him pass just after the beginning and then followed him for about 70 kilometres in the dunes. It was easy to follow because there was no dust. Then we got into some fesh-fesh and I dropped back about a minute and a half so we could see in the dust. We just tried to follow the tracks of Nasser in case he needed us, but he did a great job. For us as a team our aim is to get Nasser over the line in first place.”
Kuba Przygonski: “It was a nice stage. On the first part we were pushing to catch Sébastien (Loeb). We picked up a puncture and 10 kilometres from the end we got stuck, so we lost some time. We’re so happy that we’ve been able to be competitive in our car against the other teams.”
Cyril Despres: “First all we’re happy that Seb (Loeb), Daniel (Elena), Stéphane (Peterhansel) and David (Castera) are all OK. We stopped with Stephane and David to make sure everything was fine while the helicopter coming. We were having our first really good day of this Dakar, until 15 kilometres from the finish line. There was a waypoint that was not easy to find. When we went back over the small dunes we nearly hit a bike that didn’t see us. We brought our car to the right and went over on our side. Luckily Martin Prokop stopped for us.”
Sébastien Loeb: “We were doing a really good stage and pushing hard since the start. At kilometre 250, or something like this, we had a broken transmission. This is something that is quite tough to fix, but we had a spare one so we changed it. Then it broke again so we had to wait for Pierre (Lachaume), he gave us his spare transmission. We spent more time changing it again.”
Stéphane Peterhansel: “We came over a dune and landed head-on in the next dune. Everything went so fast that David (Castera), who was looking at the roadbook at that moment, didn’t expect the impact.”
Toby Price: “We were on some tracks that we’d taken in previous days so we knew the area a little bit. Some of the waypoints were still tricky to find. The last little section in the dunes was tough, two waypoints caught us out. We’re in the fight with one stage left so hopefully we’re looking at a one or two result and I’ll be happy with that. Today was all about being smooth and consistent, there wasn’t really the chance to break away. I just needed to keep everyone in sight and that’s what we managed to do.”
Matthias Walkner: “It felt like a really long day because we were on and off the pace all day. Sometimes it was high, then it would slow down and then go high again. It was a much harder stage than we expected. It was a good day for me, I lost no time. Now I hope I can really enjoy the last stage.”
Luciano Benavides: “There was some chaos at the beginning. We started as the first 10 bikes all together in the dunes. I got lost for about five minutes in the fog and after that I pushed a lot to catch the front group. In the end I didn’t lose too much to the top guys so it was another good day.”
Daniel Nosiglia: “This was my best stage in the Dakar. I did a great job today. I was very fast. The bike and the navigation were both good. Now I’m here with one more day to go to reach the finish line.”
Mohammed Balooshi: “Today was 313 kilometres, most of it in the dunes and the navigation was the most complicated part of the stage. There were tracks from previous days on the stage so it was easy to follow the wrong line. You had to pay a lot of attention to the roadbook today.”
Chaleco Lopez: “On the first week of this Dakar we had some problems, but the second week has been excellent. We’ll take care now on the final stage, watch out for the tyres. Only at the finish line will we stop to reflect on our result.”