“As we saw today, anything can happen on the Dakar” – Al Attiyah, log leader, with only one stage to go
Only stage 10 of the Dakar Rally must still be run on Thursday this week. Expected to come to an end around 22:00 Namibian time in the Peruvian capital, Lima, the top three teams are more or less set, if a large upset does not happen on the final stage.
That this is always a possibility with the Dakar was vividly demonstrated on Wednesday with the penultimate 313 km stage 9 won by Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel in a South African-built Hilux, running as one of three teams under the Toyota Gazoo Racing SA banner.
Stage 9 started with the cars going off in groups of four, and Al Attiyah was paired with Sebastien Loeb, Nani Roma and teammate Giniel de Villiers. The leading Hilux team stuck to their gameplan, running the full distance at a measured pace, but still setting the fastest time, nearly five minutes ahead of Roma and navigator, Alex Haro.
Overall, Al Attiyah and Baumel lead by a solid 51 minutes, keeping their number one position at the top of the log, a position they have occupied since their solid performance in stage 6.
While they ran an uneventful stage 9, the rest of the pack suffered various upheavals, shaking the rankings, and opening opportunities for both hopefuls and stragglers.
Stéphane Peterhansel driving a Mini, was forced to retire after his navigator, David Castera, injured his back in a hard landing. Loeb in a Peugeot lost almost an hour after getting stuck early in the stage and having to repair his car.
Another Mini racer, Cyril Despres and navigator Jean-Paul Cottret rolled their car in the dunes, again shuffling the middle order. To make matters even more interesting, 2018 champion Carlos Sainz, also in a Mini, did not start the stage due to transmission failure.
Finally, after stage 9, Roma moved to the second spot on the log with Loeb and Daniel Elena in third.
The other Hilux team of Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, has slowly crawled back up the log after their disastrous stage 3. They enter the final stage in position number eight.
“In the end the stage played right into our hands,” said Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall, after the two Hilux crews made it back to the bivouac at Pisco. “Both Nasser and Giniel stuck to our own gameplan and delivered exactly what we needed – two cars home with no problems, a healthy lead and just one stage to go.”
OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 9:
1. Al Attiyah / Baumel (Hilux)
2. Roma / Haro (Mini) +51:27
3. Loeb / Elena (Peugeot) +02:02:37
4. Przygonski / Colsoul (Mini) +02:33:51
5. Despres / Cottret (Mini) +02:55:13
6. Prokop / Tomanek (Ford) +03:29:06
7. Al Rajhi / Gottschalk (Mini) +04:28:22
8. De Villiers / Von Zitzewitz (Hilux) +07:08:16
9. Chabot / Pillot (Hilux) +08:11:46
10. Vanagaz / Rozwadowski (Hilux) +08:15:26