Many believed that Tuesday’s 465 km Dakar loop around Neom would have a hand in shaping the outcome of the 2021 race. It seems they were on the money. Overnight leaders Stephane Peterhansel and Jose Ignacio Cornejo Flormino both consolidated their advantages as Peterhansel and Kevin Benavides won the car and bike races. But there was chaos behind as the bone and heart breaking day developed.
It was a tough day for Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel‘s SA-built Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux. Despite ending second ahead of teammates SA hero Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro, Attiyah lost 12 minutes to leader Peterhansel. Yazeed AL Rajhi and Dirk von Zitzewitz’ Hilux ended fourth, ahead of SA duo Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry‘s Century, Martin Prokop’s Ford Raptor, the Peugeots of Sheikh Al Qassimi and Cyril Despres, Nani Roma’s BRX Hunter and Carlos Sainz’ Mini.
Peterhansel and Al Attiyah began the day on the front foot as they duked it out after Carlos Sainz’s Mini was delayed to fix a puncture early on. Al Attiyah then lost five minutes, twice, in four sectors to fix punctures. He had to take care with only one spare tyre left, while Sainz dropped further back with brake issues. Mattieu Serradori meanwhile had a great run in his SA-built Century and soon overcame Peterhansel as the two made off up front, but the Century then lost 30 minutes.
“It was always going to be a long day, so we decided in the morning that we would not go full attack. We wanted to manage the tyres and be clean with the navigation. We overtook Carlos and Nasser. It was more a question of strategy than speed. My co-driver Edouard (Boulanger) did a great job.”Peterhansel, 55, said
2009 champion Giniel De Villiers finished third on the day with Frenchman Cyril Despres seventh, reigning king Carlos Sainz 10th and Pole Jakub Przygoński 15th.
“It was a tough day. 465km full of rocks and full of riverbeds. It was an amazing landscape. We had one bad puncture a few kilometres from the finish, but we came through it.”Despres, 46, added
Behind them, a splendid eight-way spat raged between de Villiers, Al Attiyah, Al Rajhi and Baragwanath and others swapping places sector by sector as Sainz charged back too. Shameer Variyawa and Dennis Murphy meanwhile came home a provisional 14th in the third Gazoo Hilux. That left Sainz third overall, now over an hour behind, ahead of Jakub Przygponski’s Hilux, Roma and AL Qassimi, with de Villiers ninth.
Three leading motorcyclists retired Tuesday. Thirteenth overnight, Africa’s hope Ross Branch was heartbroken when his Yamaha cried enough early in the day. Not an hour later, second overall overnight and double former winner, Aussie KTM legend Toby Price crashed out and was airlifted with an injured shoulder. The Casevac copter was required again shortly after, when day winner Benavides’ brother Luciano crashed his Husqvarna out of tenth overall.
Fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing biker Sunderland stayed with his teammate for 15 minutes before Price was airlifted to hospital. He then suffered a crash himself later on in which he broke his roadbook and was unable to navigate properly. He finished fourth on the day.
Sunderland remains third overall – 14m34s behind Chilean leader Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo.
“I saw my buddy Toby laid up in a river bed with (Ricky) Brabec already stopped with him. I went over there to help let out the air of the airbag. After that I tried to get my head down and concentrate on the roadbook then, after about 100km more, I hit a rock. I went over the handlebars quite fast and had quite a big impact. Unfortunately I broke the roadbook and all of the GPS, then I had to follow the dust of other guys for the rest of the day which was quite scary.”Sunderland, 31, said
There was more drama when a group of riders lost time again early on, releasing Argentine Kevin Benavides and Chilean Flormino’s Hondas up front as Austrian Matthias Walkner’s KTM and French Yamaha survivor Adrien van Beveren were first to find their way. They ultimately split the Honda army ahead of Joan Barreda. Luciano Santolino’s Sherco was next home from Daniel Sanders and Skyler Howes’ KTMs and Ricky Brabec’s Honda.
The fight in the bikes is now for third overall, with 13 minutes separating Barreda, Sunderland, Sanders, Brabec, Howes and Santolino.
Taking the Lightweight Vehicles win and regaining the overall lead of the category was Chilean Chaleco López, however Dakar‘s youngest ever stage winner – rookie Seth Quintero – saw his podium hopes go up in smoke as his OT3 came to a standstill.
Quintero’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Cristina Gutiérrez of Spain impressed on her return to the rally after reentering under Dakar Experience rules as did Swedish debutant Mattias Ekström.
There is a 45-minute advantage at the front of the truck race for Russian Dmitry Sotnikov with the rally going great for Team Kamaz Master, who occupy all three podium spots in the general classification.
“We are happy that everyone returned to the bivouac with a good result.”Deputy team leader and multiple Dakar champion Eduard Nikolaev explained
Wednesday brings the Dakar convoy to Al Ula via a 342km timed special stage across a beautiful landscape.
Overall standings after Stage Nine
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) X-Raid Mini 34h26m16s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo +00h17m50s
3. Carlos Sainz (ESP) X-Raid Mini +01h02m25s
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL) Honda 36h51m00s
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda +00h11m24s
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR) Red Bull KTM +00h14m34s
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz Master 37h42m49s
2. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz Master +00h45m03s
3. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz Master +01h13m05s
1. F Lopez (CHL) Can-Am 42h05m20s
2. Austin Jones (USA) Can-Am +00h12m25s
3. Aron Domzala (POL) Can-Am +00h38m03s