The film of the stage Verhoeven tames the dunes and the coast is clear for Sainz This 9th stage of the Dakar held all its promises with spectacular landscapes and imposing dunes. It was the first act of a probably decisive trilogy that will...
The film of the stage
Verhoeven tames the dunes and the coast is clear for Sainz
This 9th stage of the Dakar held all its promises with spectacular landscapes and imposing dunes. It was the first act of a probably decisive trilogy that will take place in the Atacama Desert, and was won by Dutchman Frans Verhoeven, even though he started in 33rd position this morning. Marc Coma remains in the lead in the general standings. Sainz won the special stage in the car race, consolidating his position in the general standings, whereas Roma lost 24 minutes.
The bike race started very early this morning, without the fourth-placed rider in the general standings and winner of the special stage in San Rafael, Jonah Street. Having injured a wrist, the American was forced to withdraw, in spite of being second to Coma on leaving Argentina.
After an introduction to the South American dunes several days ago, but on the other side of the Andes, the bikers got to grips with the first part of a sandy triple whammy on this edition of the Dakar, with enough dunes to drive even the bravest crazy... Though, this was not the case for the leading lights on two wheels in this rally. The three leading performers from the day before, namely Despres, Coma and Lopez soon caught up with each other and spent the day together, with Coma thus neutralizing Despres.
However, it was left to other riders to create the headlines. Firstly, having started 10 minutes after Despres, David Fretigne toiled alone to get close to the leading trio. The Yamaha rider posted the best times at the first three CPs (after 131 km, 218 km and 235 km). Yet, the situation was rocked during the last part of the special stage, where the riders had to confront a section of dunes.
Secondly, Frans Verhoeven, who started in 33rd position, surprised everyone by putting in the best time after the 399-km mark. Thirty kilometers later, it was indeed the Dutchman who picked up his second special stage victory after his success in Puerto Madryn. Verhoeven beat Fretigne by 3.09 and Lopez by 3.40.
In the general standings, Coma now possesses a lead of 1 hour and 4 minutes over "Fretos" and 1 hour and 34 minutes over title holder Despres, a comfortable cushion indeed!
The first major day of racing in the dunes saw the advantage swing towards Spaniard Carlos Sainz. It is not really his preferred type of terrain, but the native of Madrid has a hand on outright victory, after having raced through the stage alongside his team-mate Miller who led for almost all of the 430-km long special stage. However, Miller hit a boulder, damaging his steering, a mishap which handed victory to Sainz. The prospects of overall victory for the former two times WRC champion are starting to become more likely every day. The hierarchy is now more ordered, both in the Volkswagen team and in the general standings where Sainz leads his two team-mates Miller and De Villiers by 19.52 and 22.58 respectively.
The fourth placed driver and 7th on the stage, 24.41 behind, was Nani Roma, probably one of the major losers of the day. The last representative of Mitsubishi is now 58.12 behind Sainz after choosing to follow Giniel De Villiers down the wrong track. This navigational error in turn also cost the South African the leadership of the Volkswagen team, his second place in the general standings and probably his last hopes of outright victory. In third position today, Robbie Gordon is well installed in fifth place in the general standings, 1 hour and 34 minutes behind Sainz. The other point of interest in this eventful day was the reappearance of the Argentine virtuoso Orlando Terranova. Having set off in 21st position this morning, he finished at the foot of the day's podium, moving up from tenth to eighth in the general standings.
Still in the car race, but in the T2 category, Ronan Chabot was the quickest driver today, finishing in 24th place. The French Toyota driver beat Spaniard Xavier Foj by a mere 21 seconds. In the general standings for the production category, Nicolas Gibon (Toyota) is still in the lead, 1 hour and 10 minutes ahead of Foj.
In the truck race, Vladimir Chagin's victory has not been approved by the race stewards. Whilst the Tsar pulled off the best time of the day with a lead of 24 minutes over Brazilian Andre De Azevedo, two of his main rivals, Kabirov and De Rooy are likely to have their times modified, since they both made long stops to help the crew of a truck that had suffered and accident.