Dakar 2018 is entering the final straight and while there is still 1000km of racing still to come including an evil sting in the tail, it seems that the modern giants of the epic race through South America are set to extend their runs of success. None of them may have won on Wednesday’s eleventh day, but the overall leaders now have an iron grip on the race, as do a South African car crew who have taken control of the rookie race this year.
Carlos Sainz cruised home in third Wednesday, Peugeot’s Spanish hero followed Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke home as the Toyota South African driver stormed to his second ever Dakar stage win over Cyril Despres’ Peugeot. Sainz was just ten seconds ahead of his closest challenger overall, Stephane Peterhansel in the other Peugeot on the day, while Peterhansel in turn put a few more minutes on third placed overall Nasser Al Attiyah, who ended fifth on the day for Toyota, ahead of South African teammate Giniel de Villiers.
The results did little bar consolidate Sainz, Peterhansel and Peugeot’s grip on the overall car race, but the man in fourth overall ten Brinke, took more than half of the gap out of his teammate Al Attiah to move to within 3 minutes of the Qatari driver. That leaves the three Toyotas covered by all of 15 minutes in their in-house fight for third overall.
So the Peugeots seem set for a swansong hat trick on their last Dakar for now, but there’s still 1000km of racing left over three days, and stranger things have happened.…
Wednesday’s strange starting order means that several cars were still in the stage, including intrepid South African Dakar debutants, Hennie de Klerk and Gerhard Schutte’s TreasuryOne Amarok running well in 26th. The TreasuryOne duo moved into a strong lead in the car rookie race on Tuesday and that team is now focussed on bringing their Ford V8-powered Volkswagen home to the finish at Cordoba come Saturday.
The day’s odd start timing meant that most of the leading motorcycles were also still racing, but provisionally on two wheels, overall leader, Austrian KTM rider Matthias Walkner had completed the stage. The quickest bikes were however still on stage and some way from the finish, with KTM duo Toby Price and Antoine Meo and Honda’s Joan Barreda quickest at the last waypoint all had passed.
South African bikers David Thomas brought his Husqvarna home an excellent 26th, while Donovan van de Langeberg, Willem du Toit and still the last man standing, Gerry van der Byl were all well into today’s stage as we wrote.
There was a major shake-up among the trucks on Wednesday, when Argentine home hero Federico Villagra and his Iveco took the stage win and also toppled long time leader Eduard Nikolaiev’s Kamaz to take the overall lead. Nicolás Cavigliasso took his second consecutive quad stage win by 15 minutes from overall leader Ignacio Casale and overall leader Reinaldo Varela and Patrice Garrouste were still fighting over the side-by-side win.
With three days to race, Thursday’s 375km 12th stage from Chilecito to San Juan forms the first half of Dakar’s 800km sting in the tail final marathon stage with no servicing allowed overnight Thursday. And judging by the drama of the last marathon stage over the weekend, this monster could very well still change everything.