MONSTER ENERGY X-RAID TEAM'S PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET SLIP FURTHER BEHIND LEADERS ON DAKAR STAGE INTO COPIAPO
- Qatar's Al-Attiyah snatches last gasp overall lead in Copiapo
- Electrical niggle costs Holowczyc crucial time and fifth overall
- Dos Santos completed punishing special in seventh position
COPIAPO (Chile): The Monster Energy X-raid team duo of Stephane Peterhansel and Jean- Paul Cottret lost further time to their arch rivals, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah, on the eighth special stage of the 33rd Personal Dakar Argentina-Chile between Antofagasta and Copiapo in the Atacama desert on Monday.
Punctures and a persistent overheating problem were again the bugbear for the three-time former Dakar winners and their BMW X3 CC crossed the finish line 1h 13m 41s behind stage winner and new race leader, Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah.
Peterhansel now trails the Qatari by 1h 33m 30s and second-placed Sainz by 1h 28m 16s heading into the final five stages of the event. He also lost third overall to South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and faces a fight-back over the remaining five stages to reclaim the final podium position before the finish in Buenos Aires on Sunday afternoon.
"A very bad day," said Peterhansel. "We had three punctures, but then the worst problem was at the end. The engine was running too hot so we changed the visco (fan) and after the temperature began to go up again and it was necessary to stop six or seven times to find some water.
"Now there is a big gap with the leaders. For three days we have so many delays. We are really disappointed now."
Krzysztof Holowczyc and Jean-Marc Fortin began the stage in fifth overall and fifth on the road, but they were delayed with electrical problems and forced to make emergency repairs. The crew dropped 15 and then 52 minutes to carry out repairs and then suffered a further problem and stopped again at 119km.
The delays meant the Pole slipped to a virtual sixth behind Mark Miller in the general classification. He passed PC2 over 90 minutes behind Miller and was in danger of losing his sixth place to the pursuing group. But he found a useful pace through the latter sections of the special in the dunes and claimed the provisional 11th fastest time.
"The loom for the alternator was broken and we drove for two hours without the battery charging," said Holowczyc. "I decide to take the alternator out and I noticed that the loom was broken. In 'Polish style' I opened the wire, took a washer and some plastic and fixed it with tape. I was sure that will all the shaking it would not work, but we made it all the way to the finish!
"Nani Roma lost seven hours with this problem. We had the same problem and lost one hour and a half. That is not so bad. We also had flat tyres after when we tried to pass all the trucks. It is not so easy on the stony ground. One of the flat tyres was very heavy and it broke the rim and the brake pipe and we had to stop again. Stephan (Schott) was very helpful and stopped to help us to change the brake pipe."
"Today has been a very bad day," said X-raid team director Sven Quandt. "We had two cars with problems - Stephane again with tyres and some small other things and Krzysztof with electrical problems, but I still think we have the chance to get the third position back."
Ricardo Leal Dos Santos and Paulo Fiщza had moved up to ninth in the general classification in Antofagasta and were the sixth crew into the day's special. They were running 10th through the checkpoint at 143km and in a similar placing at PC2. The Portuguese found a good rhythm during the afternoon and passed PC4 in a virtual eighth overall on the special that he completed in a fine seventh position.
"We had three punctures and were in a panic mode with 150km of the stage to go," said Dos Santos. "Two of those were in 500 metres of each other. When we changed one of the wheels the jack bent, so we had to undo the jack and start again with the manual (jack).
"We overtook (Guilherme) Spinelli when he stopped to change a wheel and we did not see him again. This stage was really hard. I do not know how the back guys will manage to get through. The dunes at the end were the easiest part for us."
Germany's Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt began the eighth stage in 22nd overall and 25th on the road. They passed PC2 in 47th overall and were unofficially 23rd at PC5 after losing some time stopping to assist their Polish team-mate.
"If I am honest I wanted to try and finish the Dakar in the top 15," said Schott before the stage start. "At the moment I am a little off that goal but, when you have lost two and a half hours and then three and a half hours on two stages, it takes a lot of catching up."
Andrea Mayer, Thomas Baumann and Phillip Beier reached the bivouac in Antofagasta in 36th position on Sunday's stage and classified in 40th overall. They were the 38th of the competitive trucks on the road this morning and running in 31st position through PC2.
"It is not so easy to pass some of the dunes in our support truck," admitted Baumann. "We are probably about eight tonnes heavier that the Kamaz race trucks, because of all the spares we are carrying, and we have less power. It is important to keep up the speed to pass the dunes. They are long days. It is quite a challenge."
Today's 508km special started 268km from the Antofagasta bivouac and featured a vast array of difficult features, including tricky navigation, several ergs, soft sand, stony and gravely terrain and faster section.
The marathon special included no less than seven passage controls at the 55km, 143km, 150km, 377km, 418km, 453km and 503km points. There were numerous climbs and descents in a true classic Dakar stage.
Eighty-eight of the original starters were permitted to start the special and Mark Miller was the leader at the 42km point, with Peterhansel tucked safely away in second position and able to take a little time back from Al-Attiyah and Sainz.
But the Frenchman sustained yet another puncture on the passage towards PC2 and dropped 3m 16s to the front-running Sainz. Al-Attiyah was running as the first driver on the stage and had already dropped 1m 17s to his Spanish team-mate. Peterhansel had lost further time by the 191km checkpoint and was running 7m 27s behind Sainz after further flat tyres.
By the 377km point, Sainz had extended his virtual stage lead over Al-Attiyah to 2m 24s, as the pair began to pull away from De Villiers, Miller and Peterhansel. Peterhansel was 18m 55s behind the Spaniard at PC4 and the gap had extended to 22m 27s by PC5 when overheating problems persisted. Sainz got stuck in the dunes between the sixth and seventh PCs and Al-Attiyah inherited a shock lead.
Peterhansel stopped again at the 430km point and then once more at 449km. The disappointed Monster Energy X-raid team driver eventually reached the stage finish 1h 13m 41s adrift of Al- Attiyah in sixth place.
Copiapo is the capital of the Copiapo Province and Atacama region and lies in a rich silver and copper mining district. It is surrounded by the Atacama desert.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) teams will tackle a potentially underestimated 235km loop stage through the Atacama desert around Copiapo. Treacherous sand dunes await in a stage which is split by two PCs and numerous sand traps. Although short, it could well be the decisive special stage in this year's Dakar Rally.