Advantage Coma and Al Attiyah
The return to Argentine territory of the Personal Dakar Argentina-Chile 2011 turned out to be very complicated for the challengers. Despite setting off behind Cyril Despres, his main rival for the bike title, Marc Coma took advantage of a major mistake by the Frenchman to put one hand on the trophy. On completion of the 10th stage, the Catalan now has a lead of 19' over Despres as well as a third special stage victory. In the car race, the hopes of regaining the lead in the rally were dashed for Carlos Sainz as early on as the day's 13th kilometre. Stuck in the dunes around Fiambala, the Spaniard then lost more time after a navigation error. Al Attiyah increased his lead in the general standings whilst Giniel De Villiers won his first special stage this year. In the truck race, Vladimir Chagin in his Kamaz regained command.
Cyril Despres will probably have difficulty forgetting the 97 kilometre point on the 10th special of the Dakar, because this is where the French rider made life complicated for himself, almost impossibly so, in his quest for a 4th title on the Dakar. Following a flying start to try and distance Coma, Despres was opening the way and took the wrong valley in his approach to a portion of dunes. After heading left in the company of Frans Verhoeven, the Frenchman found himself going back and forth over rocky ground, before struggling to find the right way. Worse still, he went on to lose more time at the finish, when during the last 15 kilometres he became stuck in a dry river bed to the left of the correct track. At the end of the day, the damage for the Andorran resident was a new stage victory for Marc Coma, his third this year, and more importantly 9'56 lost to the Spaniard. In the general standings, Coma has a comfortable lead of 18'10.
Far behind this battle between the favourites, Helder Rodrigues took advantage of his lowly starting position, 11th, to pick up the best times at the two CPs (after 23 km and 115 km). Like yesterday, the Portuguese rider dominated the race, but also like yesterday, he came unstuck at the finish, ending up in 8th place, almost half an hour behind the day's winner. The current third placed rider in the general standings, "Chaleco" Lopez, had one hell of a fright. The Chilean, having experienced problems with his petrol pump, was fortunately assisted by his Aprilia team-mate, Farres Guell. He finished the special in 5th place, behind Ruben Faria and the surprising Miran Stanovnik. In the general standings, Lopez increased the gap between him and Rodrigues.
If in the bike category Marc Coma did his chances of outright victory no harm, on four wheels, the day's big winner goes by the name of Nasser Al Attiyah. Apart from a small navigation error at the finish, the Qatari avoided the major pitfalls of this short stage, unlike his rival, title holder Carlos Sainz. Yesterday, the Spaniard admitted he was not comfortable in the dunes and he showed exactly why after only 13 kilometres. Like in Copiapo two days ago, "El Matador" had to dig his Race Touareg out of the sand. Even worse, he could not count on help from his team-mates De Villiers and Miller, who veered too far right of his tracks. In the meantime, Al Attiyah was flying onwards, with just behind him, Stephane Peterhansel, in spite of the Frenchman's gearbox problems that occurred during the link stage over the Andes.
Sainz's misfortunes were not over, however. Like Despres in the bike category, the Volkswagen driver made a mistake at the unlucky 100 km point, also choosing the wrong valley. At the finishing line of the special, Sainz already lagged behind his rival Al Attiyah, only 5th today, by 10 minutes. The special was a happy one for the third man in the VW team. After a faultless day, Giniel De Villiers won his first stage victory this year. In the end, he beat Holowczyc by 4'23 and another BMW X3, belonging to Peterhansel, by 5'38. The dunes in Fiambala have thus been cruel to Carlos Sainz. In the general standings, the Spaniard is now 12'37 behind Al Attiyah. On finishing the stage, the man from Madrid admitted that notwithstanding a mistake from his team-mate, he had lost the Dakar.
In the quad race, there was a sprint finish: the first 4 riders to finish the stage all did so within 4 minutes of each other and the gap between the day's winner, Jorge Santamarina, and the runner-up, Sebastian Halpern, was only 8 seconds. The situation is no way near as close in the general standings. Alejandro Patronelli, who contented himself with a solid if not spectacular 6th-placed finish, seems promised to follow in his brother Marcos's footsteps, thanks to a lead of 1 hour and 11 minutes over Halpern and 2 hours 45 minutes over Machacek.
In the truck category, Vladimir Chagin regained command. Dominated yesterday by his Kamaz team-mate Firdaus Kabirov, and second in the general standings, the six times winner of the Dakar grabbed a 4th stage victory since the beginning of the rally and climbed back to the top of the general standings. Chagin leads his main rival by more than 21 minutes. Marchel Van Vliet in his MAN truck threw a spanner in the works of the blue horse brand, taking third place and putting a stop to a series of 100% Kamaz podiums. However, in the general standings, the Russian's domination is complete: Chagin has a lead of 17'27 over Kabirov and 2 hours 44 minutes over Nikoalev.