Monster Energy X-raid team enters the home straight
• Leonid Novitskiy finishes runner-up in special stage 12
• Peterhansel and Roma still first and second in the overall standings
All the Monster Energy X-raid Team drivers had expected a difficult 13th special stage but what they had to cope with exceeded their fears – by far. Every driver got stuck and struggled with the dunes of Nasca, Peru. Following the special stage, Russian-German pairing Leonid Novitskiy / Andi Schulz were delighted with having taken their orange Monster Energy MINI ALL4 to second place behind Robby Gordon’s Hummer. Nani Roma (ESP) and Michel Périn (FRA) in the yellow MINI ALL4 Racing finished fifth. The two Frenchmen Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret with the green Monster Energy MINI ALL4 Racing had to settle for finishing seventh in today’s special stage but succeeded in defending their overall lead, with Roma following in second position. The two Portuguese Ricardo Leal dos Santos / Paulo Fiuza in the red Monster Energy MINI ALL4 Racing and Polish-Belgian pairing Krzysztof Holowczyc / Jean-Marc Fortin in the ORLEN MINI ALL4 Racing finished ninth and twelfth respectively.
Everybody had a lot of respect for the Peruvian dunes – and this attitude proved to be absolutely appropriate. “A lot of drivers won’t have completed the special stage tonight, that’s for sure,” Roma said to describe the level of difficulty. “The dunes are like the ones in Mauretania: small, with holes and extremely soft.”
When the orange Monster Energy MINI ALL4 Racing entered the bivouac, one could see two beaming faces in the cockpit. Novitskiy and Schulz proved to be the best X-raid pairing today and came close to completing the special stage without any major problems. “We probably had the right tyre pressure right from the start,” said co-driver Schulz. “Navigating also turned out to be difficult as the visibility was extremely poor.” By finishing second, Novitskiy consolidated his fifth place in the overall standings.
With just two more special stages to go, to the Dakar Rally finish in Lima, Peterhansel still may hope for a positive result. Nonetheless, the 12th special stage gave him a rather hard time. “We got stuck at the very beginning of the dune field,” the 46-year old revealed. “So, we had to cope with working our way forward centimetre by centimetre. I really thought this would be the end of my Dakar Rally. But fortunately, I was just three minutes slower than Nani.”
The Spaniard had been able to pass Peterhansel when the Frenchman got stuck. “Afterwards, I opted for decreasing my tyre pressure as measure of precaution but then, I had to kick off the special stage. And a short time later, I also got stuck in a hole.” In the overall standings, he still holds second position – with a 47-minute lead over Giniel de Villiers.
Portuguese Dos Santos and his Polish team-mate Holowczyc also struggled with the treacherous dunes. Both MINI ALL4 Racing drivers lost their way several times and had to settle for finishing ninth and twelfth, in the end. “This was an extremely tough special stage,” said Paulo Fiuza, Dos-Santos’ navigator. “We had two punctures and lost our way three times. I’m really happy to be back in the bivouac.”
For the BMW X3 CC crews, the day also was extremely tough. The two Russians Alexander Mironenko and Sergey Lebedev finished 11th with their BUER BMW X3 CC, with their German team-mates Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt coming 13th. Meanwhile, Chile’s Boris Garafulic and his French co-driver Gilles Picard are still out there struggling with the adversities of today’s special stage, in their Vision Advisors BMW X3 CC / Meanwhile, Chile’s Boris Garafulic and his French co-driver Gilles Picard finished 32 in today’s special stage, with their Vision Advisors BMW X3 CC.
Tomorrow’s 13th special stage will once again be characterised by the dunes and so, the drivers should be prepared for another tough day. Following a 100-kilometre liaison section, they will have to cover 275 special-stage kilometres. This special stage arguably will be the crucial one regarding the overall result, as the mileage of the final special stage on Sunday adds up to just 29 kilometres.