The ninth stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally has come to an end.
After a disastrous day on Monday on the way to Iquique losing more than 3 hours, Helder Rodrigues reacted like a champion in Calama with a splendid and irrefutable victory. Second placed Paulo Gonçalves maintained the pressure on Marc Coma.
Roma fights back
Deprived of all hope of winning a second consecutive Dakar from the very first stage due to a technical problem with his Mini, all which remained for Nani Roma was several prestigious stage victories to put the smile back on his face and extend his roll of honour. It is now mission accomplished thanks to a fine show of force in Calama.
Out of the reckoning for the general standings, Helder Rodrigues has nothing to lose. The Honda HRC rider had ample scope to go on all-out attack over the 450-km special finishing in Calama to open up a major gap on his rivals. In full control, the two times stage winner on the Dakar 2015 finished almost four minutes ahead of the runner-up, his team-mate Paulo Gonçalves. This was of no worry to the second placed rider in the general standings however, since he was satisfied with regaining 3’43’’ from Marc Coma and now seems to be the only rider able to trouble the KTM rider after nine stages.
Coma tries to hold his advantage
It should be said that with the day’s third placed finish, Coma was able to grin and bear it, distancing Pablo Quintanilla a little more before having to deal with the problem of Gonçalves. Finishing 23’15’’ behind the stage winner, the Chilean suffered a major blow, as did Toby Price who lost more than 23 minutes. Keeping up with the pace on the first half of the special, Joan Barreda finally finished almost 19’47’’ behind Gonçalves, whilst Javier Pizzolito and Stefan Svitko, respectively 5th and 6th, where also more than 20 minutes off the pace. As for Laia Sanz and Juan Pedrero, their performances today were nothing like yesterday, finishing 43’20’’ and 1 hour 8 minutes behind the stage winner.
Gallegos rides away in quads
Fifth on his first Dakar, Victor Gallegos just missed out by a whisker on his first victory on the most prestigious rally-raid in the world. Disappointing since the start in Buenos Aires, the Chilean has finally achieved his goal on the way to Calama with his best performance on the Dakar. With a lead of more than 15 minutes over Rafal Sonik at the finish, Gallegos did not hang about and left his rivals trailing in his wake. The Polish rider can be satisfied with his special stage because since he regained ten minutes from Ignacio Casale who only finished fourth, Sonik retook control of the general standings by four minutes. Four days from the finish, the battle is raging between the two men.
No giving up for the Spaniard
135th on completion of the first stage, today Nani Roma finished first at the end of the ninth stage in Calama. This meteoric rise was of course expected of the Mini driver, to whom the loss of all hope in the general standings on the very first day of the rally was a major blow to morale. However, far from giving up, the Spaniard decided to pull out all the stops and prove that without this mishap on the first day, he would today have been a serious pretender for the final podium. His impressive victory with a lead of 6'27' over the current general standings leader is a fine illustration of this spirit. Nonetheless, rather than taking umbrage at this result, the Qatari driver can be very happy with a special stage on which he extended his lead over his nearest rival Giniel de Villiers by fifteen minutes.
The South African, who paid the cost of a major navigation mistake, was even beaten by Vladimir Vasilyev, who again displayed his skills after his surprise triumph on stage 5. As a result, the Russian enters the top 8. In the general standings, third place is still occupied by Yazeed Alrajhi. Less flamboyant than on Sunday, he gave up 27 minutes to the day’s winner after driving for 200 km without brakes. The Saudi was more fortunate than Bernhard Ten Brinke who lost several hours on the tracks to Calama. Cyril Despres enjoyed his best performance since the start of the rally with a 10th placed finish.
Dominated by Eduard Nikolaev during the first part of the special, Airat Mardeev has finally sneaked ahead of his countryman at the end of the special to win by 1’29. Mardeev opens the gap a little bit further in the general standings, but Nikolaev is still threatening and climbs up into second place.