Yesterday’s second stage of the 35th edition of the Dakar, from San Luis to San Rafael in Argentina saw the motorcycles and quads break away from the cars and trucks, with all four categories completing a 365 km liaison - but a 359 km special separated the lighter vehicles from the 433 km that the larger machines had to complete.
Early leader Carlos Sousa was forced to stop after 33 km due to turbocharger issues. The Haval team chose to wait for the backup vehicles and receive the maximum time penalty, rather than continue toward the dunes without a fully functioning turbo and risk damaging the engine of the H8 further.
Without the threat of the Haval, the X-Raid Minis had free reign at the top of the order, with Spaniard Nani Roma catching up to team mate Nasser Al-Attiyah who, obviously suffering from navigational issues, was heading in the opposite direction. The Qatari’s woes continued, as three punctures cost him even more time. Despite his best efforts Nani Roma only managed to finish fourth.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz pushed hard in his SMG Buggy, and did particularly well in the sand – achieving a second place. Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel returned to winning ways after starting the day in sixth overall – his vast experience scoring him a 62nd stage win and winning him the race lead.
“Navigation was easy, because we could see people at the top of each dune. So we could advance based on their position. A very fast stage,” Peterhansel said.
Guilherme Spinelli, who finished 14th on day 1, looked promising in his Mitsubishi ASX – clocking the third fasted time at Check Point 1. But the Brazilian suffered in the dunes, finishing 18th and dropped further down the order.
South African hopeful Giniel de Villiers did well to make up for the 15 minutes he lost on day one, managing the third fastest time on the second stage in his Toyota Hilux.
One the fast flat wide tracks on the first half of the stage Juan Barreda pulled away from the rest of the field, clocking 172 km/h. British rookie, 24 year old Sam Sunderland had a flying start and passed two riders, including Alain Duclos on his Sherco. Portuguese Paulo Goncalves had a slight fall as a stream and the soft soil around it caught him out, but he only lost seconds initially.
Spaniard Marc Coma was having an effortless race in the first half of the special, with Chilean Francisco Lopez riding hard and Aussie Ben Grabham close behind on a works KTM from last year. But the first sandy section of the event had other ideas as the Dunas El Nihuil caught most of the field out. With Marc Coma losing eight minutes after a stone got caught in his mechanicals.
Defending champion Cyril Despres was taking it easy with his Yamaha, but crashed on a dune and continued at a more subdued pace.
“I hit my head and started seeing stars. But the worst thing was that I burst my camelback and had to finish the race (about 100 km) without water.
Barreda didn’t exactly have better luck as he hit a bull, significantly damaging his steed, but still managed to bring his Honda home in third place and retained first overall, despite struggling with his battered bike for the last few kilometres.
Sam Sunderland managed to win on his Honda – not too shabby for only his second Dakar stage ever, with Lopez 39 seconds behind - but that changed nothing at the very top of the table.
Argentine Marcos Patronelli effortlessly navigated his way across familiar territory on his Yamaha with Lucas Bonetto’s Honda close behind as the local boys made the most of their knowledge of the surroundings. Rafael Sonik did one better than day 1, by finishing third – ahead of stage 1 winner Ignacio Casale and Uruguayan Sergio Lafuente.
Gerard De Rooy and his Iveco is in command of the truck category. After a series of mishaps robbed him of emulating his 2012 triumph last year, the Dutchman has already pulled a significant lead over the rest of the field after just two days. Compatriot Marcel Van Vliet’s MAN lurks 13 minutes in arrears, closely followed by Russian Anton Shibalov’s Kamaz. Veteran and 2007 champion Hans Stacey is 29 minutes behind his cousin De Rooy, but still has a fighting chance over the remainder of the event – as does defending champion Eduard Nikolaev in his Kamaz who trails the Dutchman.
1. Peterhansel #300 (Mini All4 Racing) = 6 hours 17 minutes 2 seconds
2. Sainz #303 (SMG Buggy) +28 seconds
3. Al-Attiyah #301 (Mini All4 Racing) + 4 minutes 10 seconds
4. Roma #304 (Mini All4 Racing) + 4 minutes 19 seconds
5. Terranova #307 (Mini All4 Racing) + 8 minutes 31 seconds
1. Barreda #3 (Honda CRF 540 Rally) = 6 hours 9 minutes 41 seconds
2. Lopez #5 (KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica) + 2 minutes 3 seconds
3. Sunderland #18 (Honda CRF 450 Rally) + 2 minutes 33 seconds
4. Duclos #22 (Sherco 450 SR) + 5 minutes 47 seconds
5. Coma #2 (KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica) + 7 minutes
1. Patronelli #250 (Yamaha) = 7 hours 19 minutes 39 seconds
2. Bonetto #253 (Honda) + 3 minutes 50 seconds
3. Sonik #252 (Yamaha) + 6 minutes 6 seconds
4. Casale #251 (Yamaha) + 8 minutes 26 seconds
5. Husseini #255 (Honda) + 8 minutes 34 seconds
1. De Rooy #501 (Iveco) 6 hours 46 minutes 42 seconds
2. Van Vliet #508 (MAN) +13 minutes 57 seconds
3. Shibalov #545 (Kamaz) +18 minutes 52 seconds
4. Stacey #507 (Iveco) +29 minutes 19 seconds
5. Nikolaev #506 (Kamaz) +31 minutes 27 seconds