SAN JUAN, Argentina – With the stages on Dakar 2016 unwinding, the crews tackled the final off-piste stage of the race from the Argentine town of La Rioja to the overnight at San Juan on Thursday, January 14th.
The 431km track was deemed by many to be one of the hardest stages of this year’s race, and finishing it unscathed was an achievement in itself. However, South Africa’s Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#301) not only completed the stage without any damage to their Toyota Hilux but also retained third in the overall standings.
De Villiers from the searing hot bivouac at San Juan: “It wasn’t an easy day. We had two punctures and changing wheels cost us more than five minutes.”
The result: De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz posted a stage time of just over 12 minutes behind stage winner Nasser al-Attiyah (Mini) but that was enough to stay ahead of Miko Hirvonen (Mini) in fourth, though he did gain 4min57 on Stage 11 to put De Villiers under pressure for the final push.
South Africans Leeroy Poulter/Rob Howie in another(#319) had a clean run on the stage to bring their Hilux to the bivouac without any damage but they did lose time after missing a tight turn in the dust of a slower competitor. They went down the wrong track for about 3.5km before regaining the correct route.
NEXT COMES PENULTIMATE STAGE
Team boss Glyn Hall explained later: “As a result, Leeroy and Rob were just over 20 minutes behind the stage winner. This put them fifth in the overall race standings and with two stages to go.”
The SA teams third pair, Yazeed al-Rajhi/Timo Gottschalk had a torrid day on Stage 10 on Wednesday but came back strong on Thursday. They were 12th in the overall standings at the start of the day but moved up to 11th overall with the fifth-fastest time.
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Next up today (Friday) is Stage 12, the penultimate leg of Dakar 2016. The racing stage is billed as 481km with a liaison of 450km that will take the racers to the town of Villa Carlos Paz – overall the longest stage on the rally at 931km.
The total distance covered of Dakar 2016 will reach 9000km by the end of Friday’s stage with only the final stage to Rosario to go on Saturday. Hall commented:
“Stage 12 will bring more pressure for the drivers than I would have liked. The 481km is in itself reason to feel pressure but we also know that Hirvonan (Mini) will be on max attack to the end. There is a strong possibility that he has knowledge of the route thanks to his WRC days and the Minis were faster than we expected on Thursday.
“I think it will be more of the same on Friday with Nani Roma (Mini) only six minutes behind Poulter… it all makes for a very tense stage. Al-Rajhi will also be pushing for a good result so for me it will be a stage spent on tenterhooks.”
‘PERFECT DISPLAY OF FAST DRIVING AND NAVIGATION’
Meanwhile, Mini’s al-Attiyah was quickest through four sections of Thursday’s racing section to win Stage 11. A media release from BMW’s HQ in Munich, Germany, said: “Once again the combination of Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-pilot Mathieu Baumel (FRA) showed the form that captured them the 2015 Dakar title.
“Starting 14th, the Mini ALL4 crew quickly showed their intentions by passing the first Waypoint in third place. This perfect display of fast driving and navigation continued and reaped the rewards of first in stage and a reduction in the overall time variation to leader Peterhansel.”
Al-Attiyah said later: “We won the stage, so I’m quite happy even though it was very hard. We did a good job from start to finish and that is what racing is all about.”
Team mates Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) and Michel Périn (FRA) also used speed and navigation well to finish the day third. Hirvonen, who retained fourth, said: “It went well but it was really tough. I’m a Scandinavian guy and I need a lot of cooling for myself. I lost my air-cooling pipe and the flap on the side window so I didn’t really get any fresh air and struggled without it.”
Mini’s Spanish pair Joan ‘Nani’ Roma and Alex Haro were in the third Mini ALL4 in the top 10 with sixth on the day – they are also sixth overall. At the end of Stage 11 seven Mini ALL4 cars were in the top 15.
Overall ranking leader Toby Price (KTM) controlled the race again on Thursday. The Australian followed the pace of his rivals before making a special effort on the second half of the stage. He now has a lead of more than 35 minutes over Stefan Svitko. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) was forced to withdraw after a fall.
However the duel that attracted special attention was that of Antoine Meo and Pablo Quintanilla who started the day fourth and third overall respectively. They were separated by 1min15 at the start, 2min38 at the end of the day. Svitko, fifth on the stage, finished 12 minutes behind Meo to hold second in the general standings.
With two sections before the finish in Rosario, the question is: can Meo catch Svitko? It promises to be an exiting end to this Dakar.
Eduard Nikolaev beat Pieter Versluis and Ton Van Genugten on the stage while Gerard de Rooy (Iveco), sixth on Stage 11, controlled his position with a lead of 1hr09 over the Kamaz of Ayrat Mardeev and 1hr45 over the Iveco driven by Federico Villagra.
The mini four-wheelers were halted after 243km with Alejandro Patronelli the stage winner, 59sec ahead of South African Brian Baragwanath who had won the previous day’s stage. The second Patronelli, Marcos finished 1min16 behind though these gaps were recorded at CP4 (after 396km). If these times are validated, the race could be in the balance again because Alejandro would only be 18sec behind his brother.
2016 Dakar Rally Stage 11 results (SA racers in bold type)
1 Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT) 04hr49min16
2 Sébastien Loeb (FRA) +00hr05min52
3 Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) +00hr07min01
4 Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) +00hr08min05
5 Yazeed al-Rajhi (SAU) +00hr11min57
7 Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) +00hr12min58
1 Antoine Méo (FRA) 05hr19min08
2 Toby Price (AUS) +00hr00min18
3 Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) +00hr02min48
4 Hélder Rodrigues (PRT) +00h12min01
5 Adrien van Beveren (FRA) +00hr12min00
1 Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) 05hr31min37
2 Pieter Versluis (NLD) +00hr05min:02
3 Ton van Genugten (NLD) +00hr05min36
4 Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) +00hr07min51
5 Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) +00hr09min30
1 Alejandro Patronelli (ARG) 06hr20min15
2 Brian Baragwanath (ZAF) +00hr01min06
3 Marcos Patronelli (ARG) +00hr01min26
4 Sergei Kariakin (RUS) +00hr17min49
5 Jeremias Gonzalez (ARG) +00hr28min56
2016 Dakar Rally overall standings
1 Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) 37hr42min20
2 Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT) +00hr51min55
3 Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) +01hr17min24
4 Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) +01hr22min47
5 Leeroy Poulter (ZAF) +01hr46min36
9 Sébastien Loeb (FRA) +02hr25min18
1 Toby Price (AUS) +00hr00min18
2 Stefan Svitko (SVK) +00hr35min23
3 Antoine Méo (FRA) +00hr43min46
4 Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) +00hr45min19
5 Kevin Benavides (ARG) +00hr57min00
1 Gerard de Rooy (NLD) 39hr10min29
2 Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) +01hr09min21
3 Federico Villagra (ARG) +01hr45min45
4 Ton van Genugten (NLD) +02hr08min42
5 Pieter Versluis (NLD) +02hr46min27
1 Marcos Patronelli (ARG) 49hr36min00
2 Alejandro Patronelli (ARG) +00hr00min08
3 Brian Baragwanath (ZAF) +01hr41min15
4 Sergei Kariakin (RUS) +01hr51min18
5 Jeremias Gonzalez (ARG) +02hr02min13