Despite previously suffering from severe altitude sickness, Qatar Rally Team driver Nasser Al-Attiyah climbed as high as 4970 metres today – not far off the same height as Everest base camp – in order to continue his gradual ascent towards a second Dakar triumph.
The 10th stage of the rally took competitors over the Andes from Calama in Chile to Salta in Argentina: the new location is renowned for its beautiful architecture and occasional, week-long, dust storms. But it was a storm of a different type that hit the stage and then the bivouac at Salta, when torrential rain flooded the service area. This made working conditions for the mechanics extremely testing and driving conditions on the stage atrocious.
Nasser won the 358-kilometre stage by just one and a half minutes, but that was still enough to bring his overall lead up to 28m22s from Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers. After crossing the Chilean border, the crews embarked on a mountainous and technical stage that was extremely narrow in places. Towards the end of the stage the heavy rain started, robbing the drivers of visibility and grip.
Despite all these hazards, which accounted for a number of experienced competitors today, Nasser and his co-driver Matthieu Baumel managed to set fastest time: the Qatari’s sixth fastest stage time from the 10 stages of this year’s Dakar held so far.
“Today was a really difficult stage: it was a rally road, most of the time in the mountains,” said Nasser. “In the last part it was raining a lot and we are satisfied to finish: I think the other crews running behind us could have some difficulties . For us though it was a good run. What made it difficult was that there was not enough information in the road book therefore it was so easy to make a mistake. So we just found a good pace and stuck to it, then we discovered we had another stage win!”
Just three days are left to go until the finish in Buenos Aires, but Nasser has vowed not to let up. Tomorrow’s action takes the crews south to Termas de Rio Hondo – known in motorsport as Argentina’s round of the FIA World Touring Car Championship and MotoGP – for a relatively short stage of 194 kilometres.
Nasser, however, has seen it all before. “This is Dakar,” he concluded. “Sometimes you get hot temperatures, sometimes you get rain and snow. But now we’re here and we need to carry on at this pace. We can only relax once we’re in Buenos Aires!”
Stay up-to-date with the Qatar Rally Team at redbull.com/dakar, as they look to maintain their serious speed in motorsport’s ultimate test of endurance racing.
Results of SS10:
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team 3h 49m 59s
2. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini +00:01:35
3. Yazeed Al-Rahji (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota +00:03:39
4. Leeroy Poulter (RSA)/Robert Howie (RSA) Toyota +00:04:06
5. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:04:24
Overall ranking after SS10:
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team 35h 19m 37s
2. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:28:22
3. Yazeed Al-Rahji (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota +00:43:08
4. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini +01:23:42
5. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini +02:51:13
6. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Toyota +03:01:41
7. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +03:12:10
8. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +03:39:28
9. Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mitsubishi +02:53:35
8. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +03:02:41
9. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +03:41:53
10. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) +03:59:17