Day seven at the Dakar really turned up the level of difficultly faced by those competing in the car race. The opening leg of the marathon stage ran from Iquique to Uyuni and took the cars over 3,500 metres above sea level for some high altitude racing.
While making their way into Bolivia for the first car stage to be hosted by the country in the history of the Dakar, many crews battled the mountains as well as a course that was awash with standing water. Suffering as much as anyone was car race leader Nasser Al-Attiyah who had to stop three times due to altitude sickness. The Qatar Rally Team driver now leads overall by more than eight minutes after losing three minutes of the advantage he had held over second placed Giniel de Villiers.
Elsewhere in the car race it was an encouraging day for Team Peugeot-Total as Stéphane Peterhansel lifted himself up to eighth in the general classification while Cyril Despres currently occupies 42nd place overall.
Tonight the car crews are without outside mechanical assistance so must fix any problems picked up on the stage themselves. Also halfway through a marathon stage are the truckers as they embarked on a sandy special stage in the desert surrounding Iquique. It proved to be a perilous path for this morning’s race leader Eduard Nikolaev as the Team Kamaz Master driver lost over an hour on the stage. Nikoleav has now been replaced at the top of the leaderboard by his team-mate Ayrat Mardeev, with Kamaz trucks filling the top four positions in the truck race.
Things were not so intense for competitors in the bike and quad races today as they were able to enjoy their midway point rest day. It was not what could be called a complete day off with mechanical overhauls and media commitments taking up much of the time. The rest day did bring a nice surprise for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team as Dakar legend Heinz Kinigadner dropped in on the guys to offer them all the best for the remainder of the race.
It’s back to business for the bikes and quads tomorrow as they enter Bolivia for their own taste of high altitude racing on the way to Uyuni. As mental and mechanical fatigue begin to catch up with the leaders it will be fascinating to see which way the battle for the top swings next between Spanish bikers Joan Barreda and Marc Coma.
Results of SS7 (Cars):
1. Orlando Terranova (ARG) Mini 3h 31m 18s
2. Yazeed Al-Rahji (SAU)Toyota +00:02:20
3. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD) Toyota +00:02:28
6. Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) Toyota +00:06:50
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Qatar Rally Team +00:09:48
8. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +00:10:43
24. Cyril Despres (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +00:45:01
28. Marek Dabrowski (POL) Toyota +00:52:20
Results of SS7 (Trucks):
1. Ales Loprais (CZE) Man 4h 02m 54s
2. Gerard de Rooy (NLD) +00:05:39
3. Andrey Karginov (RUS) Kamaz +00:05:49
4. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz +00:07:17
5. Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) Kamaz +00:08:14
19. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz +01:06:35