When one of the big trucks comes up behind you, it is best to get way out of the way.
Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Courtesy ASO
Liason: 90 miles Special: 375 miles
It has been a dramatic day of developments on the longest special of the Dakar from Antofagasta to El Salvador, Chile. The biggest news came even before the special started this morning with the rumor that team orders had been issued for the top MINIs with Stephane Peterhansel being told to slow down and stop pursuing Nani Roma. Initially there was some confusion as the Monster Energy X-raid MINI team would not confirm if such an order had been given. However, Peterhansel would later make it completely clear what had transpired.
If only we could have heard this discussion between Stephane Peterhansel and Monster Energy X-raid MINI team boss Sven Quandt.
“The game is over, we’ve had a good laugh and enjoyed ourselves. Yesterday evening the team asked us to not take any more risks,” declared Stéphane Peterhansel on completion of the eleventh special stage. “It’s a bit frustrating because we’ve done most of the hard work. But, if MINI wants to have three cars on the podium at the speed at which we are driving out in front, it’s easy to crash a car or even two in just one day. We know that this can happen, but I didn’t think that they would do it.”
According to team orders, Nani Roma will be the winner of the 2014 Dakar.
Stephane had done an amazing job of reeling in Nani cutting down a once comfortable 30-minute lead to just slightly over two minutes. Obviously the fear was that both could crash out while fighting each other for the lead. However, we say them let them race! After all there are plenty of other MINIs to take their place if both Roma and Peterhansel should somehow fall out (very unlikely). And, after all, the Dakar is a race. However, now it will be a parade to the finish with the positions locked unless something catastrophic happens to either. We can understand Peterhansel’s frustration and we are sure plenty is transpiring behind the scenes.
With Peterhansel slowed by team orders and Nasser Al-Attiyah losing time with a flat, Orlando Terranova was the winner of today’s long and dusty stage.
With Peterhansel backing out of the pace today, the win would go to the MINI of Orlando Terranova. Nani Roma would then come in just under 11 minutes later. Finally the extremely fast Toyota Hilux of Giniel De Villiers took third with Stephane Peterhansel coming in fourth. Does any of this really matter now? As you can tell we are not fans of “engineered” finishes and were quite looking forward to an epic battle between two of the best drivers on the MINI team to the finish. However, the orders are currently to lock the positions giving Nani the Dakar win, Peterhansel second and Nasser Al-Attiyah third.
Carlos Sainz’s teammate Ronan Chabot flies through the longest special stage of the 2014 Dakar.
Then there is the question of Robby Gordon. As of 10 pm tonight, Robby and the Gordini have yet to show up in the bivouac here at El Salvador. While that is not completely unusual with the luck Robby has been having this Dakar, what is extremely unusual is that none of his crew are here either. Our special Dakar intranet site currently shows him never making it past Checkpoint 1 and in last place.
Raising even more alarms is that Robby Gordon’s crew was spotted turning around on the highway and heading back towards the start of today’s stage. And we are not talking just one of Robby’s support trucks, but every one of them including his big transporter. This, of course, raises even more questions.
Unlike racing in the United States, assistance is not allowed on the course and there are no pits. The only way to for a race vehicle to get help is from another race vehicle or an assistance vehicle entered in the race. Turning around all his support vehicles would not make much sense unless he was out of the rally and needed his team to extract him and the transporter to haul a non-functional Gordini. Of course, all of this is speculation at this point and all we can confirm is that neither Gordon, the Gordini or any of his crew are here at the finish of today’s stage. He has until an hour after the last truck leaves Stage 12 to take his timecard so could technically pull an all-nighter, but right now it is not looking good.
Tomorrow’s Stage 12 is mercifully shorter than today’s 375-mile special, but once again the competitors will enter even more dunes where anything can happen. Only two stages remain in the world’s longest off-road race.
Marc Coma remains comfortably in the overall lead of the bikes. He would even change his engine today to ensure he can charge to the finish. Even with the 15-minute penalty for the engine change, he is still in the lead by 37 minutes.
Stage 11 Results
*1 307 TERRANOVA ORLANDO (ARG) MINI 05h58m00s 2 304 ROMA NANI (ESP) MINI 06h08m57s +10m57s 3 302 DE VILLIERS GINIEL (ZAF) TOYOTA HILUX 06h10m38s +12m38s 4 300 PETERHANSEL STÉPHANE (FRA) MINI 06h12m14s +14m14s 5 301 AL-ATTIYAH NASSER (QAT) MINI 06h18m57s +20m57s 6 312 CHABOT RONAN (FRA) SMG 06h28m18s +30m18s 7 330 VILLAGRA FEDERICO (ARG) MINI 06h31m55s +33m55s 8 308 ALVAREZ LUCIO (ARG) FORD RANGER 06h33m38s +35m38s 9 309 HOLOWCZYC KRZYSZTOF (POL) MINI 06h36m17s +38m17s 10 314 VASILYEV VLADIMIR (RUS) MINI 06h37m06s +39m06s