Dakar Rally – Stage win for Al-Attiyah, Loeb crashes

242
Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total performs during stage 8 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Salta to Belen, Argentina on January 11, 2016. // Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total performs during stage 8 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Salta to Belen, Argentina on January 11, 2016. // Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total  performs during stage 8 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Salta to Belen, Argentina on January 11, 2016. // Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total performs during stage 8 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Salta to Belen, Argentina on January 11, 2016. // Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

As the Dakar Rally entered its second week, following the rest day in Salta, competitors headed into the legendary Fiambala sand dunes and territory that is synonymous with the adventure of this epic event.

Belén, Argentina – SPORTS – Nasser Al Attiyah has brought an end to the Peugeot domination of this 38th Dakar. At the end of the stage, the leading Mini triumphed ahead of the two Peugeots driven by Carlos Sainz, 12 seconds behind, and Stéphane Peterhansel, 31 seconds behind. As for Sébastien Loeb, having difficulty in the dunes, he made a wrong move towards the end of the special and drops down the general standings. In the bike race, Toby Price (KTM) enjoyed a twofold triumph, winning the stage and taking command of the general standings.

Stage 8 will most certainly be remembered as one of the most hotly contested on this Dakar. Nasser Al Attiyah pulled out all the stops to finally put an end to the domination of the Peugeots on this 38th edition of the Dakar. He claimed his victory right at the end of 393 kilometres of effort. In the lead on the stage from the first CP, the Qatari at one point boasted and advantage of 1’30” over Sainz and more than 6 minutes over Peterhansel.

“I am here to fight, I don’t care and I’ll do my best to win this Dakar. Tomorrow and after tomorrow we really need to maximum performance and without any mistakes,”Al Attiyah said.

The devilish pace at the end of the stage proved to be hellish for the hopes of Sébastien Loeb. Stuck in the dunes at the start of the second section, the leader of the general standings was forced to put the pedal to the metal to catch up, but made a wrong move 20 kilometres from the finish. Fortunately uninjured after an impressive series of rolls, the Loeb-Elena duo are the major losers of the day.

In the bike category, Toby Price did not pass up the opportunity to make an impression. Having started this morning 3’12 behind the leader of the general standings, Paulo Gonçalves, Price triumphed in Belen, 5’17 ahead of the Portuguese rider. The Australian also took advantage of his rival’s problems as Gonçalves crashed and damaged his navigation instruments. As a result, Price climbs to the top of the general standings this evening with a lead of 2’05” over his nearest rival. Stefan Svitko remains in third place.

“I’m pretty sure it’s gonna a dual right until the end with Paolo and I think it’s not gonna come down to minutes but it’s gonna come down to seconds. He is riding really good and really strong and we’re trying our best. My second Dakar, would be nice to try and win one but we still got another 6 days odd to go so anything can happen so we’ll just make sure we stay on 2 wheels and get to the finish line,” said Price.

In the quad category, the Patronelli brothers enjoyed another problem free day. Marcos was victorious ahead of Alejandro and South African Brian Baragwanath. In the general standings, the Patronelli brothers remain in command. Alejandro leads Marcos by 2’06”and Peruvian Alexis Hernandez by more than 30 minutes.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel clocked the fastest time on the 393-kilometre special stage. Their first stage win to date on the 2016 Dakar enabled them to move up to third overall, having reduced the gap to the leader to less than 15 minutes.

Nasser, born and brought up in Qatar, has an affinity for sand that helped him to victory in 2011 and 2015, and he was also able to rely on the expert talents of Mathieu during last year’s Dakar win as well as on this latest complex stage, where the Frenchman’s navigational skills were once again second to none.

Up until now, the stages have largely consisted of clearly delineated tracks, which make it more or less obvious for the drivers to see where they are going. In the sand dunes though, there is no specific route: the navigators have to work out where they are going and what the quickest route is to get there.

Crossing sand dunes is also a very specific art for the drivers, as they have to attack them at exactly the right angle and speed, otherwise there is a risk of rolling or getting stuck. This can lead to a massive time loss for the crew if they have to dig their car out, or worse still, wait for assistance from the race truck following behind.

“I like the dunes a lot, it is similar to what we have at home, and I think when it comes to navigation we are very strong,” said Nasser. I always thought that these stages could make a difference and that was the case. It was a very tricky stage but we had no problems. Unfortunately Sébastien [Loeb] had a problem but it’s important to have experience of those stages as we have seen. Now we are less than 15 minutes off the lead, which is good, and we will keep on pushing hard. Tomorrow is another tricky stage, a bit similar to today, so we will see what happens.”

Mathieu added: “These are definitely the most complex stages navigationally. You have to make the route yourself so it’s important to avoid getting lost, which is easily done. Even if you are not first car on the road, the tracks you see ahead of you might not be the right ones, so you have to stick with your plan but also go with your instinct at the same time.”

Tomorrow the desert action continues with a 285-kilometre loop around Belén and a relatively short liaison section of just 111 kilometres. High temperatures and some rocky river bed sections are to be expected as well as the sand dunes. It’s another opportunity for Nasser to use all his experience and cunning to make up more ground on the leading duo.

2016 Dakar Rally Stage Eight Results – Car race

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (F) Mini 04:12:23
2. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Peugeot +12sec
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Peugeot +31sec
4. Cyril Despres (F)/David Castera (F) Peugeot +4min40sec
5. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Michel Perin (F) Mini +6min42sec

2016 Dakar Rally Overall Results – Car race

1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Peugeot 26h01min44sec
2. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) Peugeot +2min09sec
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (F) Mini +14min43sec
4. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN)/Michel Perin (F) Mini +36min42sec
5. Leeroy Poulter (ZAF)/Robert Howie (ZAF) Toyota +49min32sec