Dakar 2015 Stage 12: Survival Mode – race-deZert.com

Dakar 2015 Stage 12: Survival Mode

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Dakar 2015 Stage 12: Termas Rio Honda > Rosario
MOTORCYCLES – QUADS
Transit: 248km (154miles)
Special Stage: 298km (185miles)
Transit: 478km (297miles)
CARS – TRUCKS
Transit: 248km (154miles)
Special Stage: 298km (185miles)
Transit: 478km (297miles)

 
The second to last stage of the most brutal Dakar Rally in recent memory left few opportunities for challengers to overtake the leaders in any category. Nasser Al Attiyah entered the stage with a comfortable 28 minute lead in his Red Bull Mini, ahead of Giniel DeVilliers in his Imperial Toyota. With a special stage that was only 185 miles long, all on soil and gravel roads, Al Attiyah cruised to a comfortable fourth place finish and still managed to gain an additional seven minutes on DeVilliers. Giniel DeVilliers finished in twelfth place for the stage, choosing to protect his spot on the podium rather than make a charge for the win and risk throwing the entire rally away. No doubt weighing heavy on his mind was the fact that Stage 11 saw Yazeed Al Rahji, the only stage winner not driving a Mini, fall from a third place overall position to a DNF in the blink of an eye. ““We just decided to drive through the stage,” DeVilliers conceded. “There’s no point taking any risks. Like I’ve said before, we cannot catch Nasser, so we just drove slowly through the stage avoiding any risks. It was quite a tricky stage in some places. It was very twisty with lots of rocks and stuff, but we had no problems, we just went very slowly. I think it’s a relief to get closer to Buenos Aires, for sure, because now that’s another 300-km stage done and tomorrow there is only 170 km or 180 km left. Today we tried to take the stress out of it by reducing the speed quite a lot because if you can have some problems if you’re trying to go a little bit faster on a stage like this. You can really easily have a problem and take a wheel off on a rock. So we just tried to take the stress out of it and get to the finish.”

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Robby Gordon drove conservatively on Stage 12 as well, in part due to a low oil pressure issue that has plagued his Gordini for several stages, and finished the stage in 9th place. Gordon, like many competitors, is in survival mode now with Buenos Aires in site, and sits in 19th place overall. Not surprisingly, the win for the stage went to a driver who is out of contention for the overall victory and thus has nothing to lose. It was the Argentine’s fourth stage win, but after rolling his Mini on Stage 4 he was out of contention for the overall victory before the rally was even half over and currently sits in 18th place, seven hours behind Al Attiyah. “By the end we had caught up with Nasser and ended up in the dust,” Terranova commented at the end of the stage. “When we came to the finish, there were a lot of people by the road. At the beginning we made some mistakes and we had bad luck, but ok, we had to go on to get to the end of the rally and afterwards try and learn and see where we need to improve and be faster. Of course we’re already thinking about 2016.”

Nasser Al Attiyah has a reputation for being hard on equipment, partially due to his DNF in 2012 behind the wheel of a Robby Gordon Motorsports Hummer. In this edition, no other driver ever really threatened Al Attiyah enough to force a mistake or cause him to abuse his equipment. “I just wanted to start and finish this stage, you know, because it looked like a very long stage for us,” Nasser explained after Stage 12. “We did a good job and needed to drive at a good speed, not lose concentration. I think we did a really good job and nobody caught us, we had a little bit of a gap. I’m quite happy to finish the stage without any risks and without any problems. I’ve worked a lot since last year because last year I was disappointed with the one-hour penalty. I should have won the Dakar. Everything is working 100% right for this Dakar. I’m not stressed for tomorrow.”

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As the 2015 Dakar Rally comes to a close, speculation has already begun regarding what 2016 will hold, with much of the rumors surrounding Stephane Peterhansel and the Peugeot team. Despite driving a vehicle that is at a clear disadvantage to the competition with regards to suspension and stability, Peterhansel managed to finish Stage 12 in 7th place and sits in 11th place overall. “It was very interesting to do the stages yesterday and today; now we have more information. I don’t think a stage win is possible,” Peterhansel admitted. “I think it was possible in the desert when it was really open desert, but we lost that possibility. Tomorrow it’s not possible. Now we have a lot of information and we are sure that for next year we will be ready for the fight for victory, for sure.” His teammate Cyril Despres finished the stage in the 20th position and has been steadily improving in the overall rankings, currently sitting in 34th place.

With the El Martillo team out of the race after a brutal accident and the 353 Volkswagen of Stephane Henrard retiring after Stage 8, the underdog of the 2015 Dakar Rally has been Lithuanian Benediktas Vanagas. Despite having a broken wrist and running the same tires for multiple stages, Vanagas managed to finish Stage 11 in 4th place. His luck was not as good on Friday, as he rolled his Toyota on the special after a flat tire caused him to lose control. Not one to be deterred after a broken wrist this year and wrecks that tested his resolve the past two years in the rally, Vanagas and his navigator Andrei Rudnitski kicked out the windshield and were the last car to finish the special stage, but they finished. Only 250 miles separate Vanagas and the rest of the field from celebrating in Buenos Aires on Saturday when the 2015 Dakar Rally reaches its conclusion.

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