At 500 km, the longest special of the 2018 Dakar was also one of the hardest. Rain on the Bolivian Plateau and sections at altitudes exceeding 4,800 metres made the challenge even more daunting. The competitors had to contend with their own fatigue as well as the wear and tear of their vehicles after the rules of the marathon stage left them without assistance service the night before. Tough meteorological conditions (heavy rains) have forced the organizers to cancel special stage 9.
Antoine Meo is getting into gear. Just like last Thursday, the rest of the field was unable to match the pace of the KTM rider on the road to Tupiza. Ricky Brabec fought hard, but he ended up conceding well over a minute. Meanwhile, Adrien Van Beveren held on to his overall lead by just 22 seconds over an aggressive Kevin Benavides. In the car category, Stéphane Peterhansel bounced back from yesterday’s nightmare with a narrow win after a nail-biting duel with his teammate Cyril Despres, 49 seconds back. Neither Peugeot’s double nor Nasser Al-Attiyah taking his Toyota to third place managed to unsettle overall leader Carlos Sainz. Ignacio Casale also maintained his iron grip on the quad category, but the Chilean surrendered today’s stage to Simon Vitse, who claimed his first Dakar win 24 hours after fellow Frenchman Axel Dutrie.
Performance of the day
Laia Sanz posted her best Dakar performance in a long time by finishing ninth in Tupiza. Tricky weather conditions during the 500 km (!) stage only made her ride more epic. 2015 was the last time the Spanish biker cracked the top 10 of a special. She went on to finish the rally in ninth place overall.
A crushing blow
Xavier de Soultrait seems to be jinxed at the Dakar. After showing loads of promise in his first two participations, a broken engine sent the Frenchman home three days before the end of the 2016 rally, with another mechanical knocking him out of the race last year. This time around, the Yamaha rider made a costly mistake at km 171. De Soultrait, sixth overall this morning, was forced to withdraw with a double elbow fracture and a sprained knee.
Stat of the day
Stéphane Peterhansel, a living legend of the Dakar with 13 titles in the car and motorcycle categories, claimed his second stage win in 2018, bringing his account to a nice, round 40. “Mister Dakar” is only second to the great Ari Vatanen, who won no fewer than 50 stages. And, of course, only a fool would completely rule out the possibility of a 14th title…
Quote of the day
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “I didn’t have any problems with the altitude, but it was a really long stage, with a lot of camel grass. We’re here at the finish and quite happy and we’ll try to do our best in the next six days. If Carlos makes a mistake, we can catch him, but one hour… it’s gonna be difficult.”
Stage 9 cancelled
The organizers of the Dakar have no choice but to cancel stage 9, which was supposed to take place between Tupiza and Salta on Monday. Weather conditions in the area in the last few days are preventing assistance crews from refurbishing race vehicles for tomorrow’s stage after the demanding marathon stage. The field of the Dakar will therefore head to the Salta bivouac by road. The rally will resume with stage 10 from Salta to Belén.