Tuesday, January 8
After Monday’s quick taste of the dunes, things got serious on stage two of the 2019 Dakar Rally with a race route of 350 kilometres laid out for the competitors. The challenging route created drama all the way as former winners were caught out by the shifting sands and newcomers pounced to take advantage of any slip ups.
In an unusual twist it was the cars that led off the day with stage one winners Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) opening the road in their Toyota Hilux. Al-Attiyah used all of his sand racing experience to guide the pack through the dunes. After suffering a puncture, the Qatari was caught by X-raid MINI JCW Team members Carlos Sainz (ESP) and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP). The Toyota and Mini rivals can both reflect on a steady day’s work.
The big winners in the car category on the first ‘proper’ stage of this year’s Dakar were Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and co-driver Daniel Elena (MON). Loeb gunned his Peugeot 3008DKR over the dunes to record the 11th Dakar stage win of his illustrious offroad career. The Frenchman may be a privateer entry in this edition of the world’s toughest race, but on today’s evidence he has what it takes to run with the best supported teams in the bivouac.
“In the dunes it’s tough to keep on rhythm for the whole day, but today we managed it well and things worked out for us.” – Sébastien Loeb
There was great evidence of esprit de corps out on today’s stage as 13-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel got stuck in the dunes at the 109km point of the special stage. Peterhansel’s fellow MINI John Cooper Works Buggy driver Cyril Despres (FRA) pulled over and gave his team-mate a tow – sacrificing his own chance of a stage win. The spirit of the Dakar is alive and well in Peru!
“Without Cyril’s help we would still be there now and not here at the finish line.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
Fourth place on the second stage was enough to elevate the Toyota Hilux crew of Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) and co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz (DEU) to top spot in the car race in the early rankings.
There was a pulsating battle in the bike race from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona. Honda rider Ricky Brabec (USA) led the stage by a whisker from defending champion Matthias Walkner (AUT) throughout the day, but in the final kilometres the KTM rider got his nose in front. Walkner’s final margin of victory on the 342-kilometre stage over the dunes was 22 seconds from Brabec.
“I don’t know if I made the right decision to push too much, but in the end it’s always good to have a stage win.” – Matthias Walkner
Walkner’s Red Bull KTM Factory team-mates Toby Price (AUS) and Sam Sunderland (GBR)also enjoyed productive days in the sand, finishing the stage fourth and sixth respectively. Walkner is now the best placed of this trio of former champions in the overall standings. The Austrian biker is second in the general classification, 91 seconds behind current race leader Joan Barreda (ESP).
“We had the cars in front of us today and they seemed to be taking different lines than we would normally do.” – Toby Price
Reigning champion of the Dakar truck class Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) is clearly in no mood to give up his title this year. The Russian trucker has got his race off to the perfect start with back-to-back stage wins. The Team Kamaz Master driver is in pole position to dictate the coming stages and has three team-mates backing him up should he need any assistance along the way.
Another Red Bull Desert Wings athlete enjoying a great start to this Dakar is Chaleco Lopez (CHI) and his co-pilot Alvaro Leon (CHI) in the side-by-side/UTV class. Lopez is back at the Dakar after a four year absence, before which he achieved two podium finishes in the bike race. The Chilean has clearly lost none of his speed or his competitive edge as he won the second stage today in his new category.
“I’m feeling very good to get this first long stage of the 2019 Dakar done, and to win the stage is a nice bonus.” – Chaleco Lopez
Lopez’s fellow Chilean and UTV debutant Ignacio Casale was 10 minutes further back and holds seventh place in the overall classifications. Lopez himself is second, a minute behind Reinaldo Varela (BRA) who is the defending champion of the Dakar’s UTV class.
There’s another bumper day of racing due tomorrow at the 2019 Dakar Rally. In addition to a 467-kilometre liaison route there will be 331 kilometres raced against the clock on Wednesday. As the Dakar convoy moves from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa they’ll discover the dunes of Acari, a region as yet unvisited by the rally.
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2019 Dakar Rally Car Race Top 5 (after two stages of 10)
1. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota 04h32m45s
2019 Dakar Rally Bike Race Top 5 (after two stages of 10)
1. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda 04h23m14s
2019 Dakar Rally Truck Race Top 5 (after two stages of 10)
1. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz 04h56m56s
2019 Dakar Rally SxS/UTV Race Top 5 (after two stages of 10)
1. Reinaldo Varela (BRA) Can-Am 05h21m19s
2019 Dakar Rally Quad Race Top 5 (after two stages of 10)
1. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) Yamaha 04h22m10s
Sébastien Loeb: “It was a good stage for me with no problems. We tried to establish a good rhythm and then keep it for the entire stage. In the dunes it’s tough to keep on rhythm for the whole day, but today we managed it well and things worked out for us. Yesterday we fell behind a little bit so it was good to come straight back today.”
Cyril Despres: “Overall it was a solid stage for us. We lost a little bit of time for sure, but not too much. We were really happy about the Mini and the set-up we prepared yesterday. You can make so many kilometres in testing like we’ve done with Mini in Morocco, but when you’re here in Peru racing the Dakar it’s something completely different. We saw Stéphane (Peterhansel) stuck in the dunes so we stopped to give them a tow. The team spirit we have means that these things come naturally without any thought.”
Stéphane Peterhansel: “For us it was not an easy stage. It started with some electrical problems inside the car. We had no microphone, no air conditioner, no wiper, nothing! I guess I lost a bit of concentration and then we were stuck. It was a tough place where we were so we’re very thankful to Cyril (Despres) who stopped to help us out. Without Cyril’s help we would still be there now and not here at the finish line.”
Matthias Walkner: “I don’t know if I made the right decision to push too much, but in the end it’s always good to have a stage win. There were some places with dust behind the cars, mostly it was fine though and they were easy to overtake. There was some really loose fesh fesh in the dunes so you had to be careful or you could lose control of the bike.”
Toby Price: “It was a longer day today with 340 kilometres of special stage. We had the cars in front of us today and they seemed to be taking different lines than we would normally do. We’ll head back to the bivouac now and get rested up before doing it all again tomorrow. I’m just doing my best to block out the pain in my wrist while I’m racing.”
CS Santosh: “I started the stage really well today, but after 80 kilometres I had a problem with the clutch. When this happened I had to ride while protecting the bike. If I pushed I would’ve been in a lot of trouble. I’m happy to finish the day, we’ll fix what it is tonight and then be back on the gas tomorrow.”
Chaleco Lopez: “It was a long day today and things got particularly tricky around 20 kilometres from the end. There was one waypoint that we had a hard time finding. I’m feeling very good to get this first long stage of the 2019 Dakar done, and to win the stage is a nice bonus.”
Ignacio Casale: “We had so much fesh fesh and powdery sand on this stage. It’s fair to say that we were in conservation mode and concentrating on finding a good rhythm. I know from past experience that you need to use your head at the Dakar, come up with a good plan and stick to it. That’s what we’ve been doing so far.”