Historic Dakar Rally SS8 5th for Laia Sanz
Laia Sanz continues to break Dakar records claiming highest female finish in any stage of the rally’s history, posting fifth place. Paulo Gonçalves finishes the special after overcoming various setbacks on the Uyuni salt lake, which sees the Portuguese rider move up to second place overall.
After enduring the rain, mud, sub-zero temperatures, corrosive waters, altitudes of over 3,600 metres and the dunes of Iquique, it was a spectacular downhill run for the Honda CRF450 RALLY and a fifth place finish at the checkered flag in Iquique for Laia Sanz. Top finisher in Team HRC in the Dakar’s eighth outing; she rewrites the rally’s history books in the process. The Spanish ace fought her way up into the leading group, and with highly-consistent handling, speed and effective navigation, hung in there until the race end. It was an enormous result for Laia who leaps up the overall leaderboard from 14th to 9th.
The eighth stage and first marathon stage, initially marked out on the routebook at 784 kilometres, was shortened by around 100 kilometres as the race authorities deemed one section to be of excessive danger to participants. It had been a unique departure earlier in the day as riders lined up elbow to elbow across the start-line looking out onto the imposing Uyuni salt lake awaiting them.
Paulo Goncalves, after having endured several set backs in the timed special, finished in 15th place, which sees the Portuguese rider jump to second in the overall rankings 9’11” off leader Marc Coma.
The harsh conditions which the riders have been subjected to over the two legs of Sunday’s and today’s marathon stage shook up the scorecard and wreaked havoc among virtually all the teams, of which Team HRC was no exception.
Helder Rodrigues saw valuable time slip away near the end of the special as he struggled to repair an electrical complication on the bike.
Joan Barreda, who finished yesterday’s stage with his handlebar broken in two, made an overnight swap with those of Demian Guiral from the Honda South America Rally Team. In a monumentally heroic effort the rider from Castillon had ridden over 120 km on the Honda CRF450 RALLY with just one hand, dropping barely six minutes to rivals. But likewise, an electrical fault put paid to any chances of a significant result today. Team-mate Jeremias Israel was on hand to help him through to the finish-line.
STAGE 9 – Monday, 13th January
Iquique (CHI) – Calama (CHI)
Special stage:450 km
Watch out for your bodywork
For this farewell session to the Atacama Desert, all the competitors will come together once again for the special stage, with fifty-odd kilometres over sand and dunes. They should revel in these sensations because the next stage will put both drivers and their teams into much less comfortable positions. The routes have suffered the rages of time and will be equally harsh on them: frequent potholes and bumps combined with the narrowness of the tracks will expose their vehicles’ bodywork to scratches.
5TH + 2’36
For me, it’s been a really great day, but this morning I would have preferred not to set off. The conditions were not for racing and my hands practically froze. The altitude, the cold and the lack of visibility…. The bikes took such a beating from the water and the salt. It was really dangerous, but we decided that we had to go for it, and we ended up starting the special.
I got up among the front-runners from the start. I managed to warm up a bit in the refuelling and I was able to set a good pace. It was a pity that Price and Quintanilla were so fast and were able to get past me, but it wasn’t worth risking everything just to improve on the position.
It’s a great result, and I’m really happy to have achieved it especially on such a hard day as this one. This morning it was hellish.