The film of the stage El Matador looses the battle and De Villiers rises to fame... After a day of almost forced rest, the contenders still in the race were given a short but demanding day: 213 km including the last sand dunes to be crossed in...
The film of the stage
El Matador looses the battle and De Villiers rises to fame...
After a day of almost forced rest, the contenders still in the race were given a short but demanding day: 213 km including the last sand dunes to be crossed in this 31st edition. That was certainly enough to provide for an unexpected turn of events. It was the case in the car category with the withdrawal of Carlos Sainz, whilst in the bike category, Marc Coma did damage control on his adversaries. Cyril Despres wins his 20th special stage victory in a Dakar and reaches 2nd place in the general standings. In the car category, there was an unwanted new deal inside the VW team: for Carlos Sainz, the dreams of victory have vanished at the bottom of a 'rio' while Giniel De Villiers benefited from the driving errors of Mark Miller to win the stage. The South-African driver is now in the lead of the rally.
At the start in Fiambala, Marc Coma, comfortable leader in the general standings with more than 90' lead, had enough margin for maneuver. The Catalan therefore raced wisely. Not taking any inconsiderate risk either to come back on one of his adversaries, Cyril Despres who had started 2' before kept a sufficiently high pace not to be overtaken by his lieutenant David Fretigne who was right behind him. In a nutshell, this race was the right race for a probable future Dakar winner.
And in the sand of the Catamarca Province, the most inspired was - again - Cyril Despres. His tyre problems from the early stage, which might turn out to have been fatal for him when it comes to final victory, seem very far away now that he is back in Argentina. The KTM rider had no concern for the others; he took the lead of the stage right after the first CP (km 62) and kept it till the finishing line. A lone race that allows the Frenchman to get his 4th stage victory in this rally, i.e. a third of all stages of the raid. In total, his Dakar stage victory counter is not at 20 special stages won in all his participations. Despres finally wins over Marc Coma by 1'23" and Farres Guell by 9'47".
Moreover, the title holder benefited from oil problems for David Fretigne who lost more than 10 minutes on today's stage and David now ranks second in the general standings. Marc Coma now has a 1h29' lead over Despres and a 1h33' lead over Fretigne.
Carlos Sainz will not be the winner of the 2009 Dakar. On km 79 of today's special stage, he drove his Race Touareg slap straight into a dried-out rio, and ended up on the roof three meters lower. Michel Perin got out of car 301 with a broken shoulder. The consultation of the doctor rushed to the scene put an end to the anxiety of the Spaniard who still thought he would be able to keep driving: this is where the race stops for him.
With more than 30' lead over his team-mate Mark Miller, and three stages he liked coming up, final victory seemed a sure thing for "El Matador", for his thrid participation in the Dakar. This is the kind of change that will be ranking hight in the chapter titled "I breakdown therefore I loose" in the big book of the Dakar. On the plane that will take him back to Madrid, Sainz will have time to meditate on the mishaps of Peterhansel, on the eve of the arrival in Sharm-el-Sheik in 2003, then two days from Dakar in 2006. His countryman Marc Coma might be able to alleviate Sainz's sadness reminding him how he had to withdraw in the one-before-last stage of the 2007 Dakar. Amongst the leaders in the standings who are also in bad shape so close to the end, Sainz's Mitsu rival, Nani Roma, also had his fair share of disappointment before winning on a bike. In 2002 e.g. a navigation error made him loose two hours between Tichit and Kiffa, two stages from the end.
The list of unfortunate loosers of the Dakar has been lengthened with the name of Carlos Sainz. Giniel De Villiers has all chances of writing his own name on the list of lucky outsiders whose steadiness might be rewarded at the end of the rally-raid. After the sommersault of Sainz, it's first Miller who filled up the 27" gap he had at the start of the stage becoming potential first place holder in the general standings.
But a demonstration of talent by De Villiers, between CP2 (km 140) and the finish, led to the second reversal of fortunes of the day. In his pursuit race towards La Rioja, the South-African managed to win his third stage this year. And - more importantly - after a show on sand, De Villiers manages to commit the perfect crime by now taking the lead of the rally with a 2'35'' lead over Miller. If race order are not strict at Volkswagen, this tiny little gap might lead to yet a new radical change in the standings for the two fast stages that are still on the program till the race gets to Buenos Aires.
There were also new developments in the fight for the third place on the podium: Joan 'Nani' Roma got stuck in the sand (km 170) and was passed by the Robby Gordon and his Hummer. The American now has a 4h30 lead over the Tollefsen-Evans team.
In the truck race, the 'chasse-croise' between both Kamaz trucks in the lead went on. Firdaus Kabirov, who had been given time back after rescuing another contender on stage 9, has lost ground over Vladimir Chagin. The Czar who wins here his 47th stage in a Dakar special stage has also taken the lead in the overall standings with a 1'33'' lead over his countryman.