The Dakar Rally’s eighth day of 2017 produced some top drawer cross country racing as the various leaders in the car and bike categories spent the day fighting it out for stage honours on a run through the Bolivian Andes from Uyuni to Tupizia. The stage that ran at high altitude – between 3500 and 4800m thrioughout the day was one of the best of the race so far as Frenchmen Cyril Despres and Antoinie Meo added to their Dakar stage win tallies.
The car stage proved a cracker. Overall leader, Spain’s Carls Sainz puled his horns in and drove a steady race in his Peugeot as he left the rest to fight it out for second. Gazoo Toyota South Africa’s Qatari star Nasser Al Attiyah went toe to toe with Mr.Dakar Stephane Peterhansel in their dice for second but they were not alone as Peugeot water carrier Cyril Despres was out to prove a point and Toyota’s Bernhard ten Brinke mixed it up after Giniel de Viliers dropped back due to an early problem lost him 20 minutes.
Then Al Attiyah started losing time shortly after moving back in to the lead to allow Peterhansel and Despres through with ten Brinke and Mini man Orlando Terranova looming large in the mirrors
Peterhansel eventually emerged on top of a frantic day’s racing, 46 seconds clear of Despres with Al Attiyah third another minute and a half behind. Ten Brinke wound up fourth from Terranova and Sainz, while de Villiers cawed back to ninth behind Pryzgonski’s Mini and Sheikh Al Qassimi’s Peugeot. That saw Sainz leading overall by a reduced margin of an hour and six minutes over Al Attiyah with Peterhansel third and now just 7 minutes adrift, ten Brinke fourth ten minutes further back and de Villiers back to fifth, 14 minutes behind ten Brinke.
One of the mysteries of the Dakar 2018 was solved when TreasuryOne duo Hennie de Klerk and Gerhard Schutte reappeared after their Amarok became invisible on Dakar’s scoring system overnight. But the Pretoria duo came out of today’s sector 1 in 34th position to finally confirm they are still in the race after Saturday’s woes before spending much of the say in 32nd. What happened to them last night remains a mystery, but we understand that the crew had to repair crash damage to get home before making temporary repairs to try reach tonight’s service.
Today’s bike stage also proved sensational on several fronts. Honda-mounted Californian Ricky Brabec waged a day-long battle with KTM duo, Frenchman Antoine Meo and Aussie Toby Price up front, while overall leaders Kevin Benavides, Mattias Walkner and Adrien van Beveren kept a watching brief alongside Stefan Svitko and Joan Barreda rode a cagey race favouring a hurt knee but keeping cose enough to the battle ahead.
Meo eventually won the day by one minute from Brabec with Price a further minute and a half adrift. Walkner took fourth from Benavedies, Svitko and van Beveren, those four all within 90 seconds of each other.
The upshot was that van Beveren emerged in the overall lead by all of 22 seconds over Benavides with Walkner third 6 minutes adrift but with Price, Barreda and Meo al within 4 minutes behind him. This motorcycle race is still wide open. There was drama on the day however as the Marquis Xavier de Soultrait crashed out with a broken leg and frontrunner Pablo Quintanila lost an hour when he crashed his Husqvarna.
Of the South Africans, David Thomas was in the stage in 52nd on his Husqvarna and KTM men, Donavan van de Langeberg 76th, Willem du Toit 77th and Gerry van der Byl 97th
Stage 9 tomorrow has been cancelled for safety reasons