They've got double vision!
The two title holders, Cyril Despres and Carlos Sainz, both won their second consecutive stage on the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile 2011. In the bike category, the Frenchman boasts a lead of 2'35" over Marc Coma. As regards the Volkswagen, Sainz has a lead of 3'05" over the X3 BMW driven by Stephane Peterhansel. Today, the domination continued for Kamaz, with the triumph of Firdaus Kabirov, new leader of the truck category, 9 seconds in front of Ales Loprais.
Already delighted with the performance of Ruben Faria during the afternoon, Cyril Despres learned yesterday evening that in fact he had picked up victory on stage 1, after a one minute penalty was handed out to his team-mate for breaking the speed limit. As a result, the title holder tackled the second day of the race as leader, with the responsibility of opening the road. Even the day's task was not the most demanding in terms of navigation, Despres succeeded in achieving the hardest trick in rally-raid racing: staying out in front from start to finish, as well as opening up the gap a little on his closest rivals. On completion of the 300-km special, the Frenchman boasted the best time, winning the 25th stage in his career on the Dakar. It is only the third time that he has triumphed when opening the road.
Whilst it is premature to make predictions, a traditional duel is starting to be outlined with Marc Coma, who finished 1'49 behind on the stage, trailing 2'35" in the general standings. Ruben Faria, in 3rd place, is already 6'13" behind. Furthermore, the day held revelations about the capacity of David Casteu. The Sherco rider, after a discrete first stage, was the quickest pursuer of the KTM bikes on the route to Tucuman. Trailing the leading duo by 3'46", he climbed up to 6th position in the general standings, but remains behind Francisco "Chaleco" Lopez and Paulo Goncalves. The battle between Aprilia, BMW and Sherco is underway and might not just be a battle for the crumbs left by KTM. However, Pal-Anders Ullevalseter, runner-up last year, will have difficulty getting involved, in light of the trouble he is having adapting to his new machine: "I miss my 690cc," joked the Norwegian, 29th in the general standings after only two stages!
Alejandro Patronelli regained some prestige for the brotherhood of Argentinean quad riders by winning the stage after a very tough struggle with Josef Machacek. The Czech leader lost by only 24" but holds onto command of the general standings with a lead of 5'01" over the older of the Patronelli brothers. Marcos Patronelli finished the day's special in 6th, 10 minutes behind, and shows that he has not given up after the 6 hour penalty inflicted by the race officials yesterday for his failure to arrive at the special stage start point at the scheduled time.
It was via Carlos Sainz that Spain equalised in the 'match' underway with France. Just like the day before, "El Matador" was the first to start the special. Similarly, he again had to slalom through the showers which fell on the region. And just for tradition's sake, he finished this 324-km festival with the best time, giving him the 19th stage victory of his career on the Dakar. Naturally, on a route whose type was very similar to a traditional rally, his skills as two times world champions made for a sparkling performance when he hit the tracks. However, Nasser Al Attiyah, also an expert in this field in spite of a smaller roll of honour, showed that he can give the Spaniard food for thought. The Qatari finished 1'03" behind his team-mate today, but Stephane Peterhansel is still the most threatening rival for Sainz, 3'05" behind.
In the rest of the field, it was someone else's turn to have problems since Guerlain Chicherit, who lost almost an hour on stage one, regained a standing which better suits his expectations for his Mini Countryman: he grabbed the 7th best time, after having overtaken a dozen cars on his way. However, Mark Miller, following a crash after 45 km, finished the stage in slow motion, since he was forced to stop on several occasions. In total, he took almost 50 minutes more than his team-mate Carlos Sainz to finish his day's work. In the confrontation between the Race Touaregs and the X3, there is some sort of balance. With De Villiers (VW, 4th), Terranova (BMW X3, 5th) and Holowczyc (BMW X3, 6th), there are 3 models of each car in the first 6 of the day's places.
In the truck race, it was the turn of Firdaus Kabirov to win his first special stage this year. In the absence of Gerard De Rooy, who withdrew during yesterday's stage following an accident that aggravated an old back injury, Ales Loprais has fully taken on the role of thorn in the side of the Kamaz drivers. Like the day before, he finished the special in second position, this time beating Vladimir Chagin into third. In the general standings, Kabirov is in front with a slim lead of 9 seconds over the Czech driver.