MONSTER ENERGY X-RAID TEAM'S PETERHANSEL CLIMBS INTO CONTENTION FOR PODIUM FINISH ON DRAMATIC STAGE INTO SAN JUAN
- Holowczyc snatches fifth overall back from Miller on 11th stage
- Spain's Sainz delayed; Qatar's Al-Attiyah extends overall lead
- Stephan Schott damages radiator and waits for assistance
SAN JUAN (Argentina): The Monster Energy X-raid team duo of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret climbed back into contention for a podium finish on a dramatic 11th special stage of the 33rd Personal Dakar Argentina-Chile, held in punishing heat between Chilecito and San Juan, on Thursday.
The French crew were held up in dust for much of the special, but managed to set the second fastest time behind stage winner and runaway overall leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.
With the news that Spain's Carlos Sainz was badly delayed by front suspension problems, Peterhansel will start the penultimate special on Friday, 13m 18s behind the Spaniard who lost second overall to Giniel de Villiers. Al-Attiyah's outright advantage grew to 51m 49s as a result of Sainz's woes.
"Since about 150km we were in the dust and it was not possible to be within 300 metres of Giniel," said Peterhansel. "We did all the stage at the limit of his dust and we were never able to pass. The car was perfect, but the second stage was so hot.
"This rally is not over yet. Tomorrow will be the longest stage of the rally. Other long stages have been cut. I think it could be very interesting tomorrow."
Krzysztof Holowczyc and Jean-Marc Fortin started the special in second position behind Giniel de Villiers and were under strict instructions from team director Sven Quandt not to take any undue risks if they did decide to challenge Mark Miller's hold on fifth overall.
The Pole reached the start of the neutralisation zone just under 14 minutes behind the leaders and had slipped to fifth place on the road, but rival Miller stopped to assist Sainz when the second section of the stage resumed and dropped considerable time on the special.
"When you stay in the dust all the time, like Carlos did, accidents can happen," said Holowczyc. "There was a big hole in the river bed and maybe this was the problem. We had two slow punctures on the rear after about 25km. It was unbelievable. I thought that maybe Jean-Marc (Fortin) had done something with the valve when he changed the pressure. We touched nothing. We changed one wheel and then added air to the other tyre. After the next 30km it was going down again very slowly. The tyre looked like new, but maybe the construction was broken.
"We let Stephane pass early in the stage. We attacked on the second part because we did not know that Miller and Sainz had stopped. We will look at the strategy for tomorrow because, for sure, the Volkswagen strategy will be to push like hell."
"Every day is a dramatic day on the Dakar," said team director Sven Quandt. "There is always something happening and today we were quite lucky, except that Stephane could not pass Giniel. This was a bit strange for him to be behind Giniel for the whole day after catching up four minutes in the beginning.
Ricardo Leal Dos Santos and Paulo Fiщza started the day in a comfortable seventh overall, but the Portuguese crew could not afford any mistakes with Frenchman Christian Laveille not too far behind in eighth position. Dos Santos reached PC1 in a virtual sixth position and had slipped behind Holowczyc to seventh at the start of the neutralisation. When Sainz and Miller were delayed, Dos Santos stormed through to record the fifth fastest time.
Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt completed the 10th stage in 23rd overall from a starting position of 56 and climbed back to 21st overall before the start of the stage to San Juan. The Germans reached PC1 in 17th position, but clouted a rock at 178km, damaged the radiator and were forced to wait for the rapid assistance truck. Schott passed PC2 in 51st position at 16.21hrs and had lost over three hours to that point.
Andrea Mayer, Thomas Baumann and Phillip Beier began the 11th stage out of San Juan at 10.39hrs and 32nd on the road in the truck category. The trio finished the 10th special in 29th position in their rapid MAN assistance truck and were classified 32nd in the general standings in the truck category. They were tasked with helping with repairs to Schott's damaged KS Toolsbacked BMW X3 CC.
Today's special stage started at around 1,300 metres above sea level and was split into two sections by a 160km neutralisation zone. The first part climbed to over 3,200 metres above sea level and featured a passage control at 87km and a steep descent to finish at 224km.
Section two resumed at 384km and ran for a further 238km at much lower altitude and included a second passage control point at 601km in a total special distance of 622km. Cars crossed a balance of soil, sandy and rocky terrain in the course of the stage, with numerous river crossings, canyons and deceptive junctions prevalent on the opening section.
Recent heavy rain forced the ASO to neutralise the section of stage two between 450.12km and 542.92km and cars were diverted away from the area before rejoining the special and taking the assigned route to the finish.
Sainz headed the remaining 60 cars and 41 trucks and squeezed into a four-second lead over Peterhansel through the waypoint at 20km and extended that lead to eight seconds by PC1. Al- Attiyah was running in third and had dropped one minute to the Spaniard on the stage. Holowczyc had lost 10 minutes to the leading group by PC1, Dos Santos was beating the Pole by 30 seconds at the checkpoint and the BMW X3 CC driver had also lost another four minutes to fifth-placed Mark Miller.
Sainz had extended his advantage over Peterhansel to 21s through 124km and to 1m 49s at the 201km point. Peterhansel was struggling in the dust behind De Villers and Al-Attiyah became the second quickest driver on the special. By the time the leaders had reached the start of the neutralisation section at 224km, Sainz was running 1m 24s in front of Al-Attiyah and 2m 19s ahead of Peterhansel.
Sainz began the second section of the shortened stage at 384km but was forced to stop for 15 minutes at the 410km point with damaged front-right suspension and wait for the arrival of Mark Miller. The resultant delay for Miller benefited Holowczyc in the fight for fifth, although Peterhansel was running 1m 31s behind Al-Attiyah after 431km. The Qatari extended his lead to 1m 39s through WP13 after the second neutralisation.
By PC2, with 21km of the stage to run, Peterhansel had closed the gap on Al-Attiyah to 1m 33s with De Villiers holding third and Holowczyc running in fourth position. There was no way that Peterhansel could pass in De Villiers's dust in the punishing heat and lack of wind on the stage and he reached the finish 1m 13s behind Al-Attiyah.
San Juan is the capital of the province of the same name in the Cuyo region of Argentina. It is located in the Tulum Valley, west of the San Juan River. The river has been dammed to preserve limited rainfall and much of the nearby commerce is related to wine production.
Tomorrow (Friday) is the penultimate stage of the Dakar and the last of the longer specials. A short 62km liaison steers the surviving crews to the start of a marathon 555km 'sting in the tail' special between San Juan and Cordoba.
Trucks will lead the way through this stage. The first 100km is expected to be sandy and the route climbs to just under 2,000 metres towards the finish of the competitive action near the Col Los Gigantes.