Some Is Better Than None
Stage 2- Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Rio Hondo
After much anticipation, the Dakar Rally has finally started. For reals. We mean it. Stage 2 from Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Rio Hondo was shortened by HOW MANY kilometer at the end of the stage due to the same rain that canceled Stage 1 entirely, but at least the rally was finally underway. Much of this course consisted of fast rally roads that favored the 4WD vehicles, or did they?
When the dust settled, Peugeot finished first and second for the stage with their 2WD 2008DKR. The first ever win for the 2008DKR came not from Carlos Sainz, who suffered engine troubles, or Stephane Peterhansel, who finished second. It was rally god Sebastian Loeb who won the stage by an impressive two minute gap. In his first every Dakar. In the first full stage. It is impossible to overstate how impressive this is against such a deep pool of talent. Whether this is foreshadowing for Loeb’s dominance of a new discipline, as he did with the Pike’s Peak Hillclimb, remains to be seen. WRC legend Ari Vatanen won the Dakar Rally with Peugeot the first time he entered the rally in 1987, so it is not unheard of.
The one exception to the rally roads that dominated the course was a mud hole that dashed the hopes of more than one competitor. Robby Gordon became mired in this pit, but somehow his teammate Sheldon Creed escaped. “When I saw the mud I just went full lock to the right and mashed the gas,” Sheldon confessed. Despite the setback, Gordon finished 22nd for the stage, 17 minutes back from Loeb. X-Raid’s Nani Roma was not as lucky, he lost 43 minutes in the mud and finished back in 34th place.
And Sheldon Creed? While he didn’t win his first ever rally stage, he and navigator Jonah Street did perform admirably. The duo finished in 32nd place for the day, meeting the goal of delivering their Gordini safely to the finish line and showing promise to get faster on every stage. “We passed about three cars right off the bat,” Creed noted. “The course was really fast for the first 100 kilometers, dust was the only thing that held us back. Well, that and the speed zones, those are pretty annoying when they are stacked back to back.”
Weather continues to plague the rally, and Stage 3’s special is slated to have the first 125 kilometers removed. “We didn’t come here for easy,” explained Team Speed’s Jonah Street. “I understand that the ASO doesn’t have a lot of options, but it is still a bummer.”