Sebastien Loeb laid down the law today to take a dominant Dakar stage 8 car win as he moved into the overall lead from Peugeot teammate Stephane Peterhansel, who was also second today. Cyril Despres completed the podium in the third Peugeot on a day there seemed to be precious little anyone or anything could do about the French cars flying in full altitude trim, while Mikko Hirvonen ended fourth for Mini ahead of Giniel de Villiers in the quickest Toyota.
Though 12 minutes off the pace today, South African star de Villiers put in a heroic drive as it seemed the Peugeots were hell-bent on eking out every last metre of their altitude advantage while it lasted. Still, the Toyota star to made a gallant effort. Wednesday sees a return to sensible altitudes, where the SA-built Toyotas should be able to take the fight to the Peugeots with Roma expected to make an all-out bid to close the gap on the French machines.
Roma conceded third to Despres and sits 21 minutes off Loeb’s lead after trailing Terranova’s Mini home in seventh today. Terranova and de Villiers are meanwhile ensconced in a tight one-on-one duel – split by 49 seconds today, the Mini trails the Toyota by 4 minutes in 6th overall with both of them within 30 minutes of Hirvonen in fifth. Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach meanwhile enjoyed another positive run to ninth in the third Toyota.
Overall, Loeb now leads Peterhansel by 1:38 with Despres third, 17 minutes adrift and 5 minutes clear of Roma’s Toyota. Then it’s Hirvonen, de Villiers and Terranova.
Honda takes stages, KTM chases history
On two wheels, Joan Barreda has won another Dakar stage for Honda Wednesday, taking over three minutes out of KTM twins Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland, with the Hondas of Metge and Goncalves sandwiching Sherco rider Pedrero Garcia in fourth and sixth.
The overall standings see Sunderland comfortably leading Pablo Quintanilla’s Husqvarna despite it being a tardy day for both the Chilean and third-placed Frenchman Adrien van Beveren. Should Sunderland be able to finish where he is on Saturday, it will mean that Austrian bike maker KTM will make history to win its 20th Dakar motorcycle victory in a row.
Botswana’s Vince Crosbie rode to 55th today and continues in 42nd overall while SA rider Joey Evans was still running in 99th on the road. Ignacio Casale won the quad stage from fellow Yamaha rider Sergey Kariyakin, who consolidated his overall lead, while the trucks were still racing as we closed.
Today’s stage was again shortened due to adverse conditions and rising water levels on river sections – the special stage was reduced by 73 km.