Spaniards Nani Roma and Marc Coma displayed their class in yesterday’s longest stage of this year’s edition of the Dakar, as the former put in a faultless drive in his X-Raid Mini to regain the overall lead and the latter managed to win the stage from Chilecito to Tucuman by nearly 13 minutes. SA’s Giniel De Villiers was the only driver anywhere close to Roma and finished the stage second.
Roma displayed the pace and ability that saw him unbeaten in other events since last year’s Dakar, but De Villiers kept the Catalan from getting too far ahead by managing to keep within 5 minutes of the overall leader – improving his own standing in the rankings by two positions.
“The good thing is that we did not have any power-steering problems today, but unfortunately we lost our brakes 15 km from the finish. We stopped for about one and a half minutes to have a look and obviously just had to come in slowly because my pedal is completely on the floor. It was a very tough day today. Really hard for the car,” De Villiers said.
Behind the South African, local favourite Orlando Terranova only managed to finish 20 minutes 44 seconds in arrears with defending champion Stephane Peterhansel not that far behind at the finish. Lucio Alvarez in his South African built Ford Racing Ranger managed his best finish of the 2014 event so far with the seventh fastest time at the end of the stage, but a one-hour penalty dropped him back down the order.
“We had a navigation problem and couldn’t find one of the waypoints, and spent about 20 min searching for it. But when we finished the stage we saw that many of the teams had the same problem so there must have been an issue with the road book. The special stage was very hard on the car today, as there were a lot of big jumps with hard landings. It was also extremely hot and I drank about three litres of water in the first part of the stage alone,” Alvarez said of the day’s conditions.
Defending champion Cyril Despres’ title contention took a bit of a knock when the Frenchman’s Yamaha overheated and he made costly navigation errors. Meanwhile, long-time rival Marc Coma capitalised on the tough day the top order of the bike category were have having. It all played into the Spaniard’s favour as he put serious distance between him and fellow KTM rider and compatriot Jordi Viladoms on yesterday’s stage – 12 minutes 54 seconds.
“It was another tough day. It was really hot out there. To get to the end of the stage, I rode for 10 km lost in a river-bed. In general, it’s tough for everyone. For the race lead, you can lose lots of time at any moment. When you open the way, it’s a bit like playing Russian roulette,” Coma admitted.
SA riders Riaan Van Niekerk and Brett Cummings fared well amidst tough competition and on a stage that was even tougher on the field. Van Niekerk kept within reasonable distance of the top order when he finished the stage fourth, 32 minutes in arrears. Cummings’ 26th place finish, 1 hour 22 minutes behind Coma has left him in sixth overall in his class, 2 hours 24 minutes 55 seconds behind the Malle-moto class leader.
For stage 6 the field will face a 260 km special stage that will be divided into two sections, but the total distance to Salta from Tucuman is still 694 km – a final push before the rest day tomorrow
1. Roma #304 (Mini All4) = 19 hours 21 minutes 54 seconds
2. Terranova #307 (Mini All4) + 31 minutes 46 seconds
3. Peterhansel #300 (Mini All4) + 39 minutes 59 seconds
4. De Villiers #302 (Toyota Hilux) + 41 minutes 24 seconds
5. Al-Attiyah #301 (Mini All4) + 1 hour 26 minutes 28 seconds
20. Rundle #404 (Toyota Hilux) + 5 hours 13 minutes 59 seconds
30. Poulter #323 (Toyota Hilux) + 6 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds
49. Alvarez #308 (Ford Ranger) + 12 hours 35 minutes 56 seconds
1. Coma #2 (KTM) = 18 hours 45 minutes 11 seconds
2. Barreda #3 (Honda) + 41 minutes 10 seconds
3. Lopez #5 (KTM) + 53 minutes 41 seconds
4. Viladomis #4 (KTM) + 58 minutes 58 seconds
5. Duclos #22 (Sherco) + 1 hour 2 minutes 13 seconds
15. Van Niekerk #30 (KTM) + 3 hours 10 minutes 57 seconds
32. Cummings #59 (KTM) + 6 hours 1 second