Jan 14, 2015
Stage 9: Iquique – Calama – liaison, 88km; special, 450km; total, 538km.
DE VILLIERS AND AL-RAJHI SUFFER SETBACKS ON NINTH STAGE
INTO CALAMA BUT MAINTAIN SECOND AND THIRD OVERALL
Overdrive Racing and Hallspeed-prepared Toyota Hiluxes suffered a setback in their challenge for outright victory on the ninth 450km special stage of the 2015 Dakar Rally, held across the high Atacama Desert from Iquique to Calama, on Tuesday.
The special include a varied combination of sandy and rocky terrain and began to steadily climb towards Calama after around 320km. Toyotas began the stage in second, third, fifth and seventh overall and reached the overnight halt in second, third, sixth and ninth after a navigational error and brake issues affected the leading two cars.
South African Giniel De Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz swapped seconds with arch-rival and leader Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah throughout the stage. They were 18 seconds behind the Qatari after 70km, 49 adrift after 117km and just half a minute behind after 131km.
The Toyota Imperial South Africa driver actually moved ahead of Al-Attiyah soon afterwards and then slipped behind again after a fascinating duel through the desert. He eventually reached Calama 15min 31sec adrift after losing 20 minutes late on with a navigational error. Al-Attiyah’s lead rose to 23min 58sec.
“It was not our day,” said a disappointed De Villiers. “We made a terrible, terrible navigation mistake. Obviously that’s cost us the race, so we’re sure now that we can only try to consolidate something on the podium. There was one place where we were really struggling to find the waypoint. It was an off-road area, the wind was from behind and there was so much fesh-fesh and dust. We just kept turning around. It felt like forever. It’s not impossible for Nasser to make a mistake, but with this lead he can take it easy.”
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi and German co-driver Timo Gottschalk were the first crew into the ninth special through the Atacama, but the Saudi lost a little time through the opening kilometres but continued to lead the way through the special with defending champion Joan Roma. He eventually dropped 21 minutes to Al-Attiyah after brake problems, but maintained third place with the sixth quickest time.
“I’m lucky, because after 200km we lost the brakes, all of them, and continued without brakes for 250km,” said the Saudi. “There was a lot of action and a big ditch we hit. It’s not so bad to lose 27 minutes to Roma. The stage was very rough. Now we can save third position. It’s part of my learning on the Dakar.”
Frenchman Christian Lavieille and his 2002 Dakar Rally-winning co-driver Pascal Maimon lost an hour on the special, but climbed from seventh to sixth after their team-mates hit trouble. Dutchman Bernhard Ten Brinke and his Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul began the stage in fifth overall, but technical problems shortly after the start cost them over two hours and they eventually slipped to ninth.
Leeroy Poulter and fellow South African co-driver Robert Howie began the stage in 17th in the second Toyota Imperial Hilux and also dropped well over an hour. They were unofficially still in 17th in Calama.
Eighteenth when they left Iquique, Kazakh Bauyrzhan Issabayev and Russian partner Vladimir Demyanenko recorded the 19th quickest time into Calama and appeared in the leader board in 16th. Lithuanian Benediktas Vanagas and his Belarussian navigator Andrei Rudnitski were struggling through the stage after major delays with several other front-running cars late on Tuesday afternoon.
Pole Marek Dabrowski and Dubai-based British navigator Mark Powell escaped many of the problems that had affected other crews and reached Calama in the upper reaches of the top 20.
The French-Canadian duo of David Bensadoun and Patrick Beaulé safely negotiated the tricky special and stayed on course for a finish in their Toyota Hilux, while Czech driver Peter Jerie and experienced French co-driver Laurent Lichtleuchter also stayed clear of serious problems to reach the Calama bivouac.
Crews leave Calama and cross the spine of the Andes mountain range for a fourth time to reach Argentina. In a total day’s route of 860km, 359km will be competitive, starting with a passage across the Salinas Grandes at an altitude of 3,600 metres above sea level.
The final liaison into Salta makes use of the breathtaking Paso de l’Acay at an altitude of up to 4,970 metres and passes the highest point on Argentina’s National Route 40 at Abra del Acay (4,972 metres).
Cars will then cross a shorter 194km special stage between Salta and a new Dakar overnight halt at Termas de Rio Hondo, a city in the province of Santiago del Estero, on Thursday
2015 Dakar Rally – overall positions after stage 9 (unofficial @ 22.15hrs CET):
Other Overdrive/Imperial Toyota crews – overall positions after stage 9:
TBA. Benediktas Vanagas (LTU)/Andrei Rudnitski (BLR) Overdrive Toyota Hilux TBA
TBA. Marek Dabrowski (POL)/Mark Powell (GBR) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 41hr 10min 58sec
TBA. Peter Jerie (CZE)/Laurent Lichtleuchter (FRA) Overdrive Toyota Hilux 53hr 54min 26sec
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