Several leading competitors found Sunday’s seventh Dakar 2021 stage tough going as Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz’s SA-built Toyota Hilux took the car and Ricky Brabec took the bike wins. Al Rajhi benefited overall leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger’s Mini slowing late in the day to beat the Frenchman home. Ignacio Cornejo Flormino made it a Honda 1-2 as he took the overall overall bike lead as the overnight leaders slumped yet again.
Among those to struggle were Botswana bike hero Ross Branch, who lost over 40 minutes as he duct taped his Yamaha back together after an early crash. He was still fastest of all in the middle of the stage as he charged home on his damaged machine. Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro Bravo had a tough day, losing close to 50 minutes when they suffered four punctures on their Gazoo Hilux and had to wait for spare wheels. They still moved up to 8th overall at Baragwanath’s expense.
SA car stars Baragwanath and Taye Perry were struggling to the finish as we wrote, after hitting trouble in their SA-built Century early in the day. Shameer Variyawa and Dennis Murphy on the other hand enjoyed a positive run home to 17th in the third Gazoo Hilux.
Peterhansel had made the day his own as he charged away up front after Mini teammates and 2020 winners Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz dropped out of the lead early on and second overall Nasser Al Attiyah’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux charge slowed. That left Al Rajhi in second and able to strike as Peterhansel faltered, to take a delighted home stage win and his first at the Dakar since his maiden day victory in 2015. Botswana gentleman biker James Alexander was still running on his Yamaha.
13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel was left to chase Al Attiyah home on the road to claim second in the cars and open his advantage up to just under 8 minutes over the Qatari triple-Dakar winner overall. Fellow triple-winner Carlos Sainz remains third, 41 minutes off the lead. Although he has led from the second day, Peterhansel has not won a stage on Dakar 2021.
“I hit a rock with 40km to go and broke a rim. We spent a long time changing the wheel, it was quite hard. It’s a pity because we were going quite fast at the intermediate time checks and we could have put more time into our rivals today.”Peterhansel, 55, revealed
Of the rest, Kuba Przygonski and Timo Gottschalk’s Hilux came home fifth on the day from Cyril Despres and SA adventurer Mike Horn’s Peugeot sandwiched by Yazeed Seaidan’s and Alexey Kuzmich and Matiu Serradori and Fabian Lurquin‘s SA-built Century-Corvettes. The consistent Vladimir Vasilyev and Dimitri Tsylo’s Mini 4×4, the Hunter BRX driven by Nani Roma and Alexandre Winocq and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Xavier Panserai in a Peugeot were next home.
Teenage sensation Quintero ended seventh on the day behind Chilean Chaleco Lopez, however his rivals fell away enough for him to move up to second overall 8m41s behind Poland’s Aron Domzala.
“There was no dust out front and my co-pilot Dennis (Zenz) did an amazing job. The car ran absolutely flawless and it was a smooth day like we wanted.”Californian Quintero, 18, said
Californian Ricky Brabec made it a factory Honda 1-2 as he led Chilean Ignacio Cornejo Flormino in to the Marathon bike bivouac at Sakaka. KTM trio, American privateer Skyler Howes, Briton Sam Sunderland and Aussie Daniel Sanders were next up ahead of French marquis Xavier Soultrait, and Australian Toby Price, who had fought at the front but dropped to end up sixth on his KTM.
“It’s really difficult to know where the other guys are so you’re just pushing and pushing. You don’t see anybody for three hours. I just concentrated on keeping a good rhythm and not make any mistakes. The bike’s working really well and I’m happy to be here racing.”Briton Sunderland, 31, said
“I was having a pretty good day until the last 100km. I was leading out Brabec and Barreda and heading up a dune. There was this one rock in the sand dune somewhere, which I hit with my front wheel. That threw me head first straight onto the dune. I was a bit wounded and Ricky stopped to make sure I was alright. I bent the front wheel and the bars a little. Tonight I’ll have to straighten up the spokes.”Australian rookie Daniel Sanders, who ended fifth, added
Friday’s winner Joan Barreda struggled to 14th as he opened the road, Honda teammate Kevin Benavides led but fell back to 8th and Branch ended up 27th for the day after dropping back below 80th. The flip-flop lottery Dakar Bike overall lead was turned on its head again as Flormino now leads from Price, Sunderland and Soultrait, with today’s troubled Benavides and Barreda also within ten minutes of the lead. Branch has slipped to 15th.
Russian Dmitry Sotnikov eclipsed truck compatriot Ayrat Mardeev by 3m23s to extend his lead to 45m56s over fellow Team Kamaz Master pilot Anton Shibalov.
Monday’s Stage Eight sees the field head from Sakaka to Neom with 375km of special stage.
Overall standings after Stage Seven
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) X-Raid Mini 26h36m50s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo +00h07m53s
3. Carlos Sainz (ESP) X-Raid Mini +00h41m06s
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo Honda 28h51m31s
2. Toby Price (AUS) Red Bull KTM +00h00m01s
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR) Red Bull KTM +00h02m11s
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz Master 29h12m10s
2. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz Master +00h45m56s
3. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz Master +01h05m06s
1. Aron Domzala (POL) Can-Am 32h30m33s
2. Seth Quintero (USA) Red Bull Offroad +00h08m41s
3. Austin Jones (USA) Can-Am +00h09m31s