Dakar’s fifth stage may have been shortened, but that did not dull the drama as Sebastien Loeb fought off Toyota’s Nani Roma for the car win and Sam Sunderland survived to give KTM the day’s win and take over the overall bike lead.
The 2017 event is however becoming more of a navigational nightmare than an all-out race. Almost all competitors have now been lost on more than one occasion, with certain crews being severely compromised in the process as fans and rivals start to call the worsening situation into question.
Today Mikko Hirvonen took his turn at being lost for over 40 minutes, Giniel de Villiers haemorrhaged 30 minutes over and above the 19 he lost yesterday. On two wheels, Toby Price lost an hour two days ago, Joan Barreda an hour today, while all of the top cars and bikes have been lost somewhere along the way leading to speculation that route director Mark Coma is more hell-bent on outfoxing his former rivals than actually leaving them to race.
So Sebastien Loeb took the day’s win over Nani Roma by only 44 seconds, but Loeb had been over 9 minutes clear after most rivals wrong-slotted, before the Frenchman also erred to shed over eight minutes, allowing Roma to close the gap. Stephane Peterhansel ended a further 50 seconds behind to retake the overall lead.
Overnight leader Cyril Despres was fourth from another Peugeot driven by Romain Dumas, while Zim/SA crew Conrad Rautenbach and Rob Howie ended sixth for Toyota today, making up for losing over an hour over each of the last two days after being well up each time. The rest of the top twenty was made up of lucky slower cars that found the right track and sob stories from lost crews. But is that racing?
All of this has seen to Peugeot taking the top three places overall, with Peterhansel leading; Loeb and Despres next up, but Toyota’s Nani Roma was the big winner on the day, not only moving up a position to fourth, but slashing his deficit in half to trail Loeb by just five and a half minutes.
Hirvonen’s disaster was not enough to cost him too dear overall – he sits fifth, 42 minutes adrift and ahead of Mini teammates Przygonski and Terranova, with luckless Giniel de Villiers languishing in ninth over an hour off the pace.
Bikes – Sunderland evades compass commotion
The compass commotion was not limited to the cars – spare a thought for the bikers who must navigate this mess on their own, but Sam Sunderland somehow managed to find the shortest path to win the day and take the overall bike lead for KTM. The day was a however disaster for most of the rest of the riders.
Both overnight leader, KTM’s Matthias Walkner and Honda’s erstwhile leader Joan Barreda Bort lost over 40 minutes each – Barreda’s loss on top of an hour’s penalty that saw all four Hondas docked for a refuelling transgression Wednesday, while Pierre Renet and Stefan Svitko also spent much time struggling to find the right way.
All that left the way open for those less lost, Paulo Goncalves’ Honda, Adrien van Bevern’s Yamaha, Caimi, Farres Guell and Quintanilla to stumble in on top of the order. Overall Sunderland leads Pablo Quintanilla’s Husqvarna by 12 minutes, with van Beveren third for Yamaha from KTM Men Farres Guell and Walkner and Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) sixth.
Of the Southern Africans, Botswana’s Vince Cosbie had a good race to 57th and Joey Evans entered the top 100 in 97th. KTM riders Crosbie sits 42nd overall, Evans 102nd. David Thomas however had a bad day – the Capetonian crashed his Husqvarna out earlier on and was airlifted to hospital.
The quad stage was also chaotic as unknown Dutch rider Koolen to win the day by 7 minutes aboard a Barren Racer, while another lesser known frenchman Vitse took the overall lead by 8 minutes on his Yamaha from Russian Kariyakin. Iveco’s Garard de Rooy held a 5-minute truck lead at WP5 as we wrote.
Saturday will likely bring more navigational hazards over and above the already high risks that Dakar is famous for, before Sunday’s rest day. Then the Dakar turns tail and heads back to the finish in Buenos Aires next Saturday. Keep up with the action as it happens on www.motorsportmedia.co.za.