Dakar 2020 has started to deliver its much-feared sting in the tail following a shortened stage 10 on Thursday that still delivered drama and then some on the road to Shubaytah.
While the competitive stage was shortened to 223 of its intended 540km after gale force Arabian Desert Shamal winds blew up sand storms to cut visibility, stretch official and airborne support, their day certainly served to shake up the car race as second and third placed Nasser Al Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel got lost to emerge 16 seconds apart but 18 minutes adrift of overall leader and day winner Carlos Sainz. Honda meanwhile delivered a crushing 1-2-3 as second home Ricky Brabec further consolidated his advantage and day winner Barreda moved up to third overall.
Carlos Sainz senior wasted no time at all as the Spanish former double world rally and Dakar champion shot out of the blocks to defend his slender advantage over Qatari Al Attiyah’s proudly South African Gazoo Toyota Hilux, which had shaved Sainz’ overall lead down to a few seconds on Tuesday up to two minutes 174km into the day’s stage. But that Shamal was building up to make the dunes dangerous to race as Fernando Alonso rolled his SA Hilux and among a litany of incidents caused by drivers misjudging the dunes in the trying conditions.
Navigation also proved crucial in that tough section as Al Attiyah lost his way to slip over 15 minutes behind, but he was not alone as Mr Dakar, Peterhansel and his Mini buggy lost 10 minutes along the same route to let Attiyah off the hook as he missed relieving the Qatari of second by all of 16 seconds. Like Sainz, Pole Jakub Przygonki (Mini AWD) and SA hero Giniel de Villiers (Gazoo Hilux) navigated their way to second and third for the day ahead of Frenchman Pierre Lachaume (Peugeot) and the Toyotas of Saudi Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke.
Peterhansel ended up 10th on the day, Mattieu Serradori 12th in the SA Century buggy and Al Attiyah 17th, while the South African Red-Lined Nissan Navaras fared well as Hennie de Klerk and Johann Smalberger (TreasuryOne) raced home 22nd and Brit Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren (Sabertooth) ended 30th to once again improve their best ever Dakar day result. So Sainz leads Al Attiyah and Peterhansel by 18 minutes overall, Al Rajhi, Argentine Orlando Terranova (Mini) and de Villiers an hour back and Ten Brinke and Serradori next up, with Alonso 14th, De Klerk 29th and Bell 35th.
It was Honda’s day on two wheels as Spain’s Joan Barreda Bort led Californian Ricky Brabec and Argentine Kevin Benavides home in a clean sweep from KTM trio, 2019 winner, Aussie Toby Price, Luciano Benavides and Mattiias Walkner and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna). Botswana hero Ross Branch (KTM) was again first privateer home in 8th, SA lady rider Kirsten Landman was 44th ahead of Stuart Gregory in 52nd, Taye Perry 67th and Zim rider Graeme Sharp 70th. Overall Brabec now leads Quintanilla by 25 minutes from Barreda who has now passed Price for third.
US drivers continued to rule the side by side roost as Mitch Guthrie held off Blade Hildebrand for the day’s win as compatriot Casey Currie continues to lead overall with Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach lying fourth. There was a surprise in the quads as Pole Kamil Wiesniwski beat Czech Zdenek Tuma to an upset win, but Chilean overall leader Ignacio Casale keeps his overall advantage over France’s Stefan Vitse and it was all about Russia and Kamaz in the trucks as Anton Shibalov beat Dimitry Sotnikov and Eduard Nikolaev took a 1-2-3 and Andrey Karginov consolidated his overall advantage too.