Today’s stage went from Calama Chile to Saltana Argentina with 218km of Special Stage and a 417km Liaison section that would take racers through the Andes Mountains at altitudes in which they haven’t yet seen in the 2013 Dakar.
It was a rather frustrating stage for the naturally aspirated cars as they would have trouble with the high altitude through the Andes Mountains, where as the forced induction cars took stage 7 by storm despite the 30-40% power-train loss. Today’s stage played to the favor of Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel as he was able to put another one minute and fifty six seconds on top rival Nasser Al-Attiyah who would finish 6th in today’s stage.
Peterhansel commented “I just held on and pointed it straight as fast as I could,” not really what you would think hear when they are racing at speeds of 150kph and altitudes of over 4,000 meters.
The 4wheel drive cars had the advantage today due in part to the flat narrow rally roads through the mountains. Although to the advantage of the 4wheel drive cars, Guerlain Chicherit and Robby Gordon were able to make their way into the top three in their two wheel drive buggies and secure yet another podium finish.
The battle still wages on between the Monster Mini of Stephane Peterhansel and the Red Bull Buggy of Nasser Al-Attiyah for the first position in the rally; with only 3:14:00 separating the duo it is going to be a nail biter in the second half of the rally. Another battle has been brewing further back in the field between Giniel de Villiers and Leonid Novistkiy who currently sit roughly 44 minutes behind race leaders. Expect to see some excitement within the top 5 overall sooner than later.
Stage 8 will be the storm before the calm; “rest day” on day 9 will prove to be a much needed break for those teams that are struggling and might need regroup.