Stephane Peterhansel made his intentions crystal clear when he delivered a rousing drive in Dakar’s Marathon Stage 7, beating Peugeot teammate, fellow Frenchman Sebastian Loeb home by 48 seconds to open his overall lead over Loeb to just under 2 minutes.
But it’s South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers who stirred things up as he finally delivered a strong stage result following a frustrating opening week. The Stellenbosch racer brought his SA-built Gazoo Toyota Hilux home a fine third, 3 minutes and 33 seconds off Peterhansel – no bad at all for a high altitude stage in a normally aspirated car, as the Toyota beat the best of the Minis, Mikko Hirvonen home by a minute and a half. De Villiers also jumped up from 8th to 6th overall and close enough to worry Hirvonen ahead of him in fifth.
It was also a good day for Toyota’s best placed driver, Spaniard Nani Roma, who followed Hirvonen home in fifth to move up to third overall as he displaced Cyril Despres’ Peugeot for the podium slot. It appeared that the Frenchman got lost to end up 8th. Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach driving with SA navigator Rob Howie also enjoyed a positive day for Toyota in a provisional 11th on the day.
The Marathon stage from La Paz to Uyuni in Bolivia was a tricky one for competitors, with no assistance allowed in the overnight bivouac and despite the day’s race distance being halved following the weekend’s adverse weather conditions that saw Saturday’s stage cancelled, most crews would have been a little more cautious today. Peterhansel held the upper hand at 100km; 1:20 quicker than Loeb with de Villiers looking good throughout, before the trio came home in that order.
Bikes – Brabec’s surprise
Honda’s US star Ricky Brabec pulled a late surprise when US rider arrived an hour after his rival to edge Pablo Quintanilla to go fastest of the motorcycles on Monday. Chilean Husqvarna Quintanilla rider meanwhile narrowed the gap to overall leader, Brit Sam Sunderland’s KTM by almost 3 minutes in the overall stakes.
Sunderland was third on the day from Joan Barreda on another Honda, with French riders, Xavier de Soultrait’s Yamaha fifth Michel Metge sixth on a Honda. Overall Sunderland leads Quintanilla by 15 minutes with Adrien van Beveren’s Yamaha third ahead of the KTMs of Farres Guell and Walkner and Soultrait. The Honda riders sit further adrift following their hour refuelling misdemeanor penalty last Wednesday.
Of the Southern African bikers, Botswana’s Vince Crosbie enjoyed a brilliant stage as he opened up the taps to end up a stunning 27th for the day and 42nd overall, while SA rider Joey Evans was still riding at the time of writing. In the quads, Russian Sergei Karyakin rode a blinding stage to move into the overall lead, while the trucks were still in the stage as we wrote.