The Antofagasta bivouac was a welcome sight to many competitors after a long day of racing.
Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Courtesy ASO
Dakar is not known for showing any mercy. It wears you down with days after days of endless stages and thousands of miles of racing. By this point in the race, the finish is tantalizing close, but sleep depravation has taken its toll on everyone and mechanical components have been beaten into submission. The racing doesn’t get any easier either as Stage 10 was a mix of huge dunes and some of the most barren, inhospitable desert we have ever seen. All of it was designed to make navigation almost impossible and to show there would be no easy cruise to finish for anyone this year.
One of the first casualties of the stage (in fact before it ever began) was BJ Baldwin. When going to the fuel the car last night, the crew discovered a large leak in the fuel cell. The fuel cell mounts failed causing the cell to shift and the engine’s water pump pulley to gouge a hole in the cell. While the cell could be patched, the fear was that the mounts could break again and the already weakened cell could rupture spilling fuel everywhere. After the fire that happened to the racecar of BJ Baldwin’s teammate Guerlain Chicherit, BJ decided that the risk was not worth it and withdrew from the rally.
Another big name to fall today was that of Carlos Sainz. El Matador was running well and in the top five pushing the Red Bull SMG buggy hard. What looked like another top-five finish for the Spaniard quickly went wrong when Sainz somehow crashed during a liaison stage. He was lightly injured and had to receive medical attention ending his 2014 Dakar.
Stephane Peterhansel came in second on today’s stage, but more importantly reeled in Nani Roma even further and has an overall Dakar win within his grasp.
Back at the front of the pack, today’s stage was almost a repeat of yesterday with Stephane Peterhansel again massively cutting into Nani Roma’s overall lead. Roma, who once had a very cushy 30-minute lead, has seen it whittled down to a scant two minutes and 15 seconds after Peterhansel once again went on maximum attack today and capitalized on a couple of small mistakes made by Roma. "We got stuck atop a dune for about eight minutes towards the beginning of the stage, and in the second part of the special we lost some time due to a flat tire,” explained Roma. “But that's racing, it's competition, it's sport. It's not over yet, we knew this week would be tough and tomorrow will be another special." While looking confident and relaxed, we would imagine that Nani is indeed very nervous.
Nani Roma again made a few mistakes cutting his overall lead down to only two minutes and fifteen seconds.
While Nani took third, finishing right in front of him in second was Stephane Peterhansel. Going for his 12th Dakar win, Stephane seems to be enjoying the role of the pursuer. “It was yet another good special overall. We've been pulling out all the stops for a few days. We're pushing the car to the limit. It slips and bounces all over the place. The MINI is one tough cookie and it just keeps going. We're having fun. We're confident because we feel at ease in the car. The machine is well-oiled and things are looking up," shared Peterhansel. Indeed with only three stages left in the 2014 Dakar, Peterhansel is right where he wants to be.
Nasser Al-Attiyah once again flew to a stage win and is now third overall.
A familiar name took the Stage 10 win with Nasser Al-Attiyah once again driving extremely hard to come first across the line. With a clean, error-free run and a fast pace, Nasser pushed himself three minutes and fifty seconds ahead of Peterhansel. "We've only got one option left: going on the attack,” noted Nasser. “We've still got three days to go and we're rather happy. It was a fun stage, we drove very fast with Stéphane, and we stayed together most of the day. I tried to win today, in part because the gap between me and Terranova had shrunk and things were still open. At any rate, the race still has challenges in store for me, it's not over yet." Amazingly, despite an one hour penalty, Nasser has pushed himself into third overall.
Chile has one of the most barren desert landscapes we have ever seen without any vegetation or shade.
Robby Gordon is now the lone American left in the Dakar. Once again he would encounter problems with the Gordini failing to start leaving him stranded on top of a dune. Eventually, it was sorted and Gordon would cross the line in 20th position one hour and twenty-six minutes behind Nasser.
More dunes and the Atacama Desert await the competitors tomorrow.
Cyril Despres begins to work his way out of the dunes and into the barren Chile desert.
The crews are the true unsung heroes of Dakar working deep into the night to keep their racecars going. They then wake up early, break down their pits and drive hundreds of miles to the next bivouac to start the process all over.
Overall Standings as of Stage 10 1 301 AL-ATTIYAH NASSER (QAT) MINI 04h23m35s 2 300 PETERHANSEL STÉPHANE (FRA) MINI 04h27m25s +03m50s 3 304 ROMA NANI (ESP) MINI ALL4 04h37m20s +13m45s 4 302 DE VILLIERS GINIEL (ZAF) TOYOTA HILUX 04h51m50s +28m15s 5 309 HOLOWCZYC KRZYSZTOF (POL) MINI 04h54m48s +31m13s 6 314 VASILYEV VLADIMIR (RUS) MINI 04h56m57s +33m22s * 7 307 TERRANOVA ORLANDO (ARG) MINI 04h57m23s +33m48s 8 312 CHABOT RONAN (FRA) (FRA) SMG 05h05m15s +41m40s 9 308 ALVAREZ LUCIO (ARG) FORD RANGER 05h06m36s +43m01s 10 330 VILLAGRA FEDERICO (ARG) MINI 05h08m41s +45m06s