G-ENERGY TEAM: Stage seven – half of the race behind
Special stage: 546 km | Total stage distance 741 km | Liaison: 195 km
Weather conditions: day +18С, night +4
Yesterday, the racers had a long-awaited rest day. Drivers and riders were able to take a breath and prepare – both mentally and physically – for the second half of the rally marathon distance. After all, right on the next day they had to tackle the longest special stage of the race – the 546-kilometer route from Riyadh to Wadi Al-Dawasir. The participants had to overcome very long fields of dunes, alternated with an intricate network of dirt roads and high-speed plateaus.
After the rest day in Riyadh, the DAKAR participants went to Wadi Al-Dawasir, a city and a desert located on the Najd plateau. The area around this settlement is rich in evidence of past civilizations and ancient ruins. Wadi Al-Dawasir is placed on an ancient trade route connecting the south and the northeast of the Arab Peninsula. Numerous caravans passed along this route, traveling to Mesopotamia.
Unfortunately, the race seventh stage was overshadowed by tragedy – one of the motorcyclists, Paulo Gonçalves, fell fatally at the 276th kilometer of the distance. Kevin Benavides, who started later, stopped next to him. The Argentine tried to help his opponent, but he could not. A medical helicopter was called to the crash site. Doctors found the 40-year-old motorcycle rider unconscious and diagnosed cardiac failure. After resuscitation, Gonçalves was taken aboard a helicopter and sent to a hospital where his death was recorded.
In this situation, the general mood at the bivouac was far from joyful, because Paulo was a man who was respected by veteran riders and inspired less experienced motorcyclists with his performances. After meeting with riders, the organizers decided to cancel tomorrow’s eighth stage for Bike and Quad categories, to give riders time to say goodbye to their friend. And the whole huge DAKAR family will gather tonight to honor the memory of Paulo Gonçalves.
Portuguese Paulo Gonçalves was part of the factory team Hero Motorsports Team Rally. His best result at DAKAR was the second place in 2015. And in 2013, Gonçalves became the World Cross-Country Rally Champion.
The longest special stage of the entire rally is behind; the best time was set by the KAMAZ-master team representatives. Andrey Karginov won the seventh special stage, Dmitry Sotnikov finished the second, and Anton Shibalov rounded out the top three.
Sergey VYAZOVICH, the MAZ-SPORTauto team driver, completed the seventh stage with the fifth result – Ales Loprais wedged between him and the three racers of the Blue Armada.
Andrey Karginov and Dmitry Sotnikov occupied the first and second places throughout the special stage. Anton Shibalov initially rolled back to the 11th place, but then he gradually found the right pace and, having played several positions back, finished the stage third.
At the seventh special stage finish line, the gap between Karginov and Sotnikov was only three seconds! By the cross-country rally standards, it’s nothing. Shibalov, however, lost two minutes to the special stage winner.
Sergey VYAZOVICH, performing in the bonneted MAZ truck, was nine and a half minutes behind Karginov.
Alexey VISHNEVSKY, also representing the MAZ-SPORTauto team, finished the seventh special stage with the ninth result. His teammate Alexander VASILEVSKIY had the 20th result.
After the seven stages, the situation in the Truck standings is as follows – Andrey Karginov is remaining the classification leader. Anton Shibalov is the second, losing 21 minutes to Karginov. Sergey VYAZOVICH is behind him; he is taking the third place and losing 47 minutes to the leader of the standings by this moment.
According to the seven days of the race results, Alexey VISHNEVSKIY is taking the eighth place in the Truck standings, and Alexander VASILEVSKIY – the twelfth one.
WHAT PARTICIPANTS WILL FIND TOMORROW
The DAKAR rally marathon eighth stage is the next ring stage with a length of 477 kilometers. Start and finish will be organized in Wadi Al-Dawasir. The field will go south and find mountain landscapes, canyons and sands. One of the special stage sections will be a good test for engines of racing cars, motorcycles and quads – fans of high speeds should like a straight line 40 kilometers long! But tomorrow there also will be dune massifs, where racers will have to show completely different knowledge and skills – most of the special stage will be sands and dunes.
On the previous day, when the maintenance of racing trucks was underway, engine and transmission oils were preventively changed in all assemblies and friction units. The seventh stage was quite fast and therefore the units received less load; laboratory tests did not reveal significant changes in the characteristics of the products used. Oils provide the operation of units, and those, in turn, work in the normal technical condition.
QUOTES:Sergey Vyazovich, International Master of Motorsports of the Republic of Belarus, head of the MAZ-SPORTauto team, crew No. 503 driver,“There was nothing complicated at all. Flat “one-dimensional” stage, with short approaches to low dunes. But in some places on the straights there was again a very soft surface and we still can’t develop the maximum speed “in full throttle”. Our truck can’t keep its maximum speed on this type of surface [insufficient engine torque to drive at high speed compared to hard surface – editor’s note]”.
Alexey Vishnevsky, Master of Motorsports of the Republic of Belarus, crew No. 528 driver,“The special stage was high-speed enough – we crossed dunes, plateaus and sand, so everything changed. There was a speed stretch to the finish line. In general, everything went well. In one place I made a small mistake and got stuck on the dune crest. We went out, dug up, spent six minutes, fastened and drove on without incidents”.
Alexander Vasilevsky, Candidate Master of Motorsports of the Republic of Belarus, crew No. 508 driver,“The stage was very long. Fast, speedy – you can say “carousel race” because of how the landscape was changing. You pass two to three kilometers in the dunes, a plateau, again dunes, and again a plateau. We can‘t fully understand the problem with the engine. We changed the engine control unit – it seemed that the truck “started to drive”. But after ten kilometers it didn’t reach its maximum speed again. Today it was possible to push hard all the way, but we had about 100-110 km/h [speed, limited by regulations, that a truck can reach is 140 km/h editor’s note]. That is why we have such result. “