Today’s Stage 8 was the second part of the ‘marathon stage’ that left the competitors without assistance overnight. With 498 km of racing, it was also the longest daily distance to be raced in this 2018 Dakar Rally. Add high dunes 3,500m above sea level and you’re left with a program like no other.
There is no racing tomorrow (Monday), as announced earlier by Dakar Sport Director Marc Coma. “Stage 9 is cancelled so we can re-group everyone before Argentina. […] There is a risk of flooding and thunderstorm, we don’t want to take any risks.”
Yesterday’s winner and new overall leader Carlos Sainz comfortably opened the road, but fellow Team Peugeot Total drivers Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres didn’t let him go away too easily.
After hitting a rock and ripping the rear part of his car yesterday, Peterhansel had lost the overall lead – and Despres had stopped to help and exchange car’s parts, losing a lot of time himself. Today both quickly overtook Sainz and Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, bouncing back with a win for Peterhansel – his 40th in the Dakar – and a second place for Despres (+49”). Al-Attiyah took third (+2’12”).
Peterhansel said: “I’m not back in the game because we’re talking hours of time difference and I just got a few minutes back. Gaining two minutes on Nasser Al-Attiyah won’t bring us back into the game. It’s a pity that tomorrow’s stage has been cancelled because we needed every opportunity we could get our hands on to claw back time.”
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 14, 2018
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antoine Meo clocked the best time today ahead of Ricky Brabec (+1’08”) and teammate Toby Price (+2’45”). Also from KTM, Matthias Walkner took sixth, securing his third place overall.
Yesterday’s winner Joan Barreda ran out of steam and finished in eighth place, probably slowed down by his wounded knee.
Meo said: “I went flat-out from the start. I wanted to gain six or seven minutes on the leaders. And I’m happy with what I did today because I pushed to the limit. I stopped for two minutes to help Quintanilla, whose chain had come off. I fell at km 400, but both my bike and I are fine. It’ll hurt my chances if tomorrow’s stage is cancelled, but I’ll try to salvage something on the way to Fiambalá. Everything’s still up in the air!”
After Axel Dutrie yesterday, another Frenchman claimed his first Dakar win today: Simon Vitse. He finished 3’27” ahead of Marcelo Medeiros and 5’20” ahead of overall leader Ignacio Casale.