Ales Loprais claims another stage win and manages to reach second overall
Also Stage 7 of the Dakar rally was marked by quality performance of Tatra No. 504, which manages to clib in the overall ranking.
Stage 7 took all competitors back to the dunes of the Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. After some consideration, the organisers decided to shorten Leg 7 to macimum 252 km but surely it was a massive set of dunes and dust. Even No. 8 in the rankings the Kazakh Astana Kamaz truck, lost more than one hour to the stage winner. Ales Loprais started the special as the first truck, for the first time this year and he succeeded. From the opening sections, he managed to maintain and even extend the lead ahead of the Kamaz duo. While the overall leader, kabirov, drove consistently, chagin lost some minor time, probably at a puncture. Although the 6-time winner managed to close the gap a little, in the end Ales Loprais extended his lead also to him. Loprais then wins the second stage in a row and manages to reach No. 2 overall, keeping Chagin 12 minutes adrift.
"Today there was another beautiful stage and we were lucky all over it. It was atechnical one, with numerous jumps and high dunes. We drove at our maximum and fortunately managed to win again. But it is really hard, the pressure is sometimes at extremes. We fight for every second and still we have thousands of kilometers ahead of us. What pleases us is the way that other big competing teams chear for us in this truck battle. Team de Rooy even offered its own phisiotherapist and massagers, which is very kind of them. So, we keep battling but it must be careful. What else could be done...," Ales Loprais comments.
In the overall ranking, there is a change on positions 2 and 3. The lead of Kabirov is a bit smaller now but the situation is also documented by the 3rd place of chagin -- all he lost for the whole rally is a time of three punctures and flaty tire is a relatively routine situation in this sport. Nothing is decided also at the fight for te fourt place as Echter pushed hard and gained some time over Nikolaev. Also interesting is the small battle of two different MAN trucks for places 8 and 9. Whereas van Vliet is driving an ex-Stacey champ special, his follower, Behringer, sits behind the wheel of an ordinary production machine.
So, the battle of Atacama moves on, keep your fingers crossed! Stage 8 will offer another gruelling menu from Antofagasta to Copiapo, including a 508-kilometre special, the longest in the rally so far.
-source: Jiri Vintr