Locals watch as the racers go by.
Author: Craig Perronne Photos: Courtesy of ASO
Liason: 143 miles Special: 331 miles
After a day of rest, the Dakar Rally is back in action. The rest day at the Salta bivouac gave many the chance to both refresh and review strategy before heading into Chile for Stage 8. For the mechanics of the rally there is never any relief and this was true of rest day as most of the top teams took the chance to completely tear down their racecars.
Today’s stage was the only loop of the rally meaning that the crews did not have to tear down their pits and travel to the next bivouac making things a bit easier. Mother Nature also joined in the relief effort with this being the first time the rally has experienced temperatures below 100 degrees with temperatures 40 degrees cooler than the previous stage.
Carlos Sainz charged the stage taking the win by four minutes over the second-place MINI of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Carlos Sainz once again returned to the top spot on the stage showing off the speed of his SMG buggy. While Sainz has no hope of an overall win due to mechanical problems earlier in the race, he still has a strong desire to capture as many stage wins as he can. In fact, Sainz says he will try to take every stage win until the rally ends. “The special was quite good for us, with a very fast course but a very technical sector as well. In all honesty, everything went smoothly, and from now on we'll be following the strategy of trying to win all the remaining stages until Valparaíso,” explained El Matador.
The tight tracks of the stages should have favored the MINIs but Nasser Al-Attiyah had to settle for second. However the MINIs did take seven of the top ten spots.
Coming in four minutes and forty eight seconds behind Sainz was the MINI of Nasser Al-Attiyah. Nasser was running extremely fast on the stage and was looking to take the win, but a slight navigation error cost him. “We set a very high pace from the get-go. It was a very fast special and I quickly got in the wake of Stéphane Peterhansel, but I wasn't able to overtake him,” explained Nasser. “I eventually found a gap, but I didn't manage to hold onto the lead for long because a bit later I made a little mistake at a crossroads and took a wrong turn. I lost some time but, more importantly, Peter seized the chance to get back in front and from then on it was pointless to take risks to catch up with him. Anyway, it was a good day all in all.”
. Stephane Peterhansel wasn’t able to cut into Nani Roma’s overall lead and still trails him by more than 30 minutes.
Stephane Peterhansel piloted his MINI into the third position. He seemed to enjoy today’s stage, but being first off the line cost him a bit of time as he had to slow to avoid herds of llamas. “A well-rounded special with nice, fun stretches with a focus on technique and others which were all about raw speed,” explained Mr. Dakar. “Finding our way around wasn't overly difficult, but that didn't mean opening the course was easy, as we came across herds of llamas several times and had to brake hard and then drive carefully while they got out of the way. We scared them away for the other drivers and it cost us some time, because when you go down to 50 kph at this altitude it takes a while before you get back to 160!”
One of the big trucks cruises its way through the stage.
What some in the United States might not understand is that the Dakar is a hugely strategic race. Going flat out all the time might result in stage wins, but can thrash the car or result in a crash over the long haul. The Dakar is a constant analysis of risk vs. reward and figuring out the proper pace.
Nani Roma is a perfect example of this. With an overall lead of 30-plus minutes over Stephane Peterhansel, Roma must drive fast enough not to let Peterhansel cut significantly into his lead. At the same time, going too fast would not be wise as his lead is comfortable enough. On Stage 7, Nani would execute his strategy of matching Peterhansel’s pace almost perfectly giving up only a minute to him and coming in fourth. “Our day wasn't half bad despite a flat tire and having to drive a few kilometres in the dust of Giniel de Villiers before we managed to overtake him,” explained Roma. “Anyway, I'm happy, there's one day less left and we're still in the lead. Thirty minutes should be enough to take it easy if everything goes well, so we'll take the race day by day and go on the attack, but we won't risk everything. So far so good, I'm happy.”
Robby Gordon’s bad luck continued as broken wheel studs caused a wheel to fly off and major downtime.
In an effort to keep the Gordini cooler, Robby Gordon had the crew swap the radiator from the back of the car to the front. Usually a big job in a fabrication shop, the crew pulled an all nighter and somehow had the job done by the morning. Unfortunately, bad luck continued for Gordon when a wheel came off after changing a flat tire breaking wheel studs and causing damage. He eventually limped across the line in 55th.
BJ Baldwin had a better day finishing 28th but did accidentally crash into the back of another racecar in the dust causing some damage. The other racer demanded that BJ pay for the damages immediately and the two eventually got into a scuffle. For Stage 8 the Dakar heads into Chile where the Americans hope their luck will improve.
Overall Standings as of Stage 7 1 303 SAINZ CARLOS (ESP) SMG 04h43m28s 2 301 AL-ATTIYAH NASSER (QAT) MINI 04h48m13s +04m45s 3 300 PETERHANSEL STÉPHANE (FRA) MINI 04h50m54s +07m26s 4 304 ROMA NANI (ESP) MINI 04h52m24s +08m56s 5 309 HOLOWCZYC KRZYSZTOF (POL) MINI ALL4 04h54m19s +10m51s 6 330 VILLAGRA FEDERICO (ARG) MINI 04h56m22s +12m54s 7 314 VASILYEV VLADIMIR (RUS) MINI 04h59m26s +15m58s 8 302 DE VILLIERS GINIEL (ZAF) TOYOTA HILUX 04h59m53s +16m25s * 9 307 TERRANOVA ORLANDO (ARG) MINI 05h01m28s +18m00s 10 311 TEN BRINKE BERNHARD (NLD) HRX FORD 05h03m32s +20m04s