PETERHANSEL SETS FOURTH FASTEST TIME FOR MONSTER ENERGY X-RAID TEAM ON SHORTENED LOOP STAGE AROUND COPIAPO
- Impressive Holowczyc records sixth fastest time on ninth stage
- Carlos Sainz reduces Nasser Al-Attiyah's overall lead to 3m 18s
- Ricardo Leal Dos Santos maintains seventh with 10th fastest time
- Stephan Schott badly delayed with clutch-related problems
COPIAPO (Chile): The Monster Energy X-raid team crew of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean- Paul Cottret were back in a competitive pace on the slightly delayed and shortened 207km loop stage around the bivouac in Copiapo in the Atacama desert on Tuesday.
The pair completed the sandy special with the fourth fastest time, despite losing considerable time with navigational issues, and consolidated a similar position in the overall standings. Spain's Carlos Sainz shadowed Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah through the timed section and set the fastest time. As a result, the Spaniard reduced the Qatari's overall lead to 3m 18s.
"When we are in just the sand and the camel grass it is okay and I can drive very fast," said Peterhansel. "In the middle of the stage it was stony again, so we drove slowly in the rocks. Then, at the end, we made a mistake of navigation and lost about four minutes. It was not a good day, but better than yesterday. We had no flat tyres and no problems with the engine.
"Normally Jean-Paul (Cottret) is confident with the road book, he is relaxed and it is clear. This year I do not know if they change the design or the format, but we lost the road some times and there were no caps. I know I need to drive slowly in the stones, but I like to drive fast. My target is not to finish fourth. I want to do some good stages now."
Krzysztof Holowczyc and Jean-Marc Fortin started the day's loop stage from 11th on the road and sixth in the general classification. The Pole was running strongly through the first PC and was a virtual sixth on the stage. He managed to maintain his position through the remaining dunes to consolidate his overall position.
"It is not so bad when you pass seven cars on the stage," said Holowczyc. "We decided to take no risks because of the dust. Now we are counting minutes not seconds. Jean-Marc (Fortin) was perfect with the navigation. We had no problems. The car was perfect."
Ricardo Leal Dos Santos and Paulo Fiщza inherited seventh overall before the stage when French rival Christian Laveille was handed 36 minutes of time penalties in the bivouac in Copiapo. They began the stage seventh on the road immediately behind Peterhansel, but were delayed for nine minutes in the dunes before the first passage control and were 18th through the checkpoint. The Portuguese found a good rhythm through the closing kilometres to record the 10th quickest time.
Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt reached the finish of Monday's tricky stage in 22nd position and started the Copiapo loop in 20th overall, despite stopping to assist their team-mates, Holowczyc and Fortin, on the eighth stage.
But the Germans were forced to stop within metres of the stage start when Schott found it difficult to engage a gear. The crew were initially unsure whether the clutch or the gearbox was the cause of the problem and were forced to wait for Andrea Mayer's MAN race truck before carrying out emergency repairs in the stage.
Andrea Mayer, Thomas Baumann and Phillip Beier were permitted to take the start of the shortened truck special in 38th position this morning. They incurred further time penalties on Monday evening for not completing the full special into Copiapo and stopped soon after the start of the day's special to help Schott replace the clutch in his BMW X3 CC.
"I am obviously pleased to see Stephane through the stage, but the result could have been much better," said X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "There were some navigation problems today where they lost some time, but the suspension settings were better for the stones.
"Krzysztof did a very good job with some careful driving and no risks, but it could be a late finish for Stephan (Schott)."
Today's stage was delayed one hour because of fog lying in the dunes above Copiapo and race officials also took the decision to shorten the special by 28km for the car and truck runners.
That meant that the special stage ran for only 207km for the cars and finished at PC2, thus missing out the last section of sand dunes to enable back-markers to reach the finish in good time before the early morning crossing of the Andes into Argentina on Wednesday.
One hundred and six bikes, 17 quads, 76 cars and 44 trucks were authorised to start the special. Al-Attiyah was the first driver into the stage in cool, misty conditions, with Peterhansel running in sixth, Dos Santos in seventh, Holowczyc starting in 11th and Schott lining up in 22nd.
Al-Attiyah held a 16s advantage over Sainz through PC1 at 34km, with Peterhansel running in a virtual fifth position and Holowczyc moving up to sixth. By 63km, Al-Attiyah and Sainz were tied to the second with Peterhansel running in third, 62s behind. Sainz edged seven seconds in front of his Qatari colleague after 106km and had extended his advantage to 1m 26s after 133km, as Peterhansel remained on their tails in third.
Sainz eventually claimed the stage win -- his fifth on this year's Dakar -- by the margin of 1m 56s, with Peterhansel reaching the end in fourth place after losing time near the end after some confusion over the road book.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) crews re-cross the border between Chile and Argentina in an 863km route, which includes a short 176km special stage in Argentina and two liaison sections.
The first liaison utilises route 60, after crossing the border and the Andes mountain range via the San Francisco Pass. The route then descends into Argentina, where summer temperatures on the special stage in the white dunes at Fiambala could make the soft sand treacherous in the afternoon sun. A short liaison guides crews to the overnight halt at Chilecito, near La Rioja.