- Stage 9 cancelled – tough deal for SA team
- Landslide means no proper overnight service
- De Villiers hoping to catch leaders
ABRA PAMPA, Argentina – The Argentine town of Abra Pampa isn’t much more than a spec on the map but at the end of Stage 8 of Dakar 2017 it served as a makeshift bivouac for South Africa’s Toyota Gazoo race team.
The team was forced to complete an entire service at the side of the road near the town because a huge landslide had torn away the road to the official bivouac at the town of Salta.
The result: January 10 turned out to be one of the longest days of the 2916 race. Even Nani Roma, competing in his 22nd Dakar, said “it’s the toughest I’ve ever seen”.
Roma and navigator Alex Bravo (#305) successfully completed the second part of the marathon section – Stages 7 and 8, run consecutively with no overnight assistance allowed.
The first part of the route took the race crews to a bivouac at the Bolivian town of Uyuni, the second – Stage 8 – brought the race back into Argentina with a scheduled bivouac at the city of Salta.
BETTER DAY FOR DE VILLIERS
The Toyota crew posted the seventh fastest Stage 8 time, coming home 14min26 behind stage winner Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot). They dropped to fourth in the overall standings as a result while Peugeot’s Cyril Despres moved up to third.
Toyota SA’s Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz (#302) had a better day despite having to fight the extreme altitudes experienced on the stage with a non-turbo engine. They finished fifth-fastest on the day, 12 minutes behind the stage winner, to take sixth in the overall standings.
CARS CLASSIFICATION – LEG 8:
1 LOEB Sébastien (FRA) / ELENA Daniel (MON) Peugeot 3008DKR 4hr11min2
2 PETERHANSELStéphane (FRA) / COTTRET J-P (FRA), Peugeot 3008DKR +3min35
3 DESPRES Cyril (FRA) / David CASTERA (FRA) Peugeot 3008DKR +5min13
4 HIRVONEN Mikko (FIN) / PERIN Michel (FRA) Mini +8min14
5 DE VILLIERS Giniel (ZAF) / VON ZITZEWITZ Dirk (ZAF) Toyota Hilux +11min57
PROVISIONAL CAR STANDINGS AFTER LEG 8
1 LOEB Sébastien (FRA) / ELENADaniel (MON), Peugeot 3008DKR 20hr10min5
2 PETERHANSEL Stéphane (FRA) /COTTRET J-P. (FRA) Peugeot 3008DKR +1min38
3 DESPRES Cyril (FRA) / DavidCASTERA (FRA), Peugeot 3008DKR +17min17
4 ROMA Nani (ESP) / HARO Bravo(ESP), Toyota Hilux +23min36
5 HIRVONEN Mikko (FIN) / PERIN Michel (FRA), Mini +53min41
De Villiers said at the makeshift bivouac: “The turbo entries definitely had a big advantage but we managed to restrict our time loss. From tomorrow (Wed Jan 11) we’ll be at lower altitudes and keen to get into the thick of the fight.”
De Villiers was also relieved to be done with the tough marathon section, Neither of the remaining two Toyota Hilux race vehicles required serious repair after Stage 8 – a relief for the technical crews who found themselves facing not only a roadside service but also a drive over treacherous terrain to reach the bivouac in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
With so many race and support crews stuck away from the bivouac the organisers had no choice but to cancel today’s Stage 9. All crews will follow the liaison route to the Argentine town of Chilecito from where racing will resume with Stage 10 on Thursday.
“This makes it even trickier for us,” Toyota Gazoo team boss Glyn Hall said after learning of the stage cancellation. “There are few stages at low altitude and we need every race kilometre to make up time. Add to that the fact that Stage 9 was slated to be a stern test for the navigators and it could well have been a turning point for us in the race.”
2017 DAKAR STAGE 9 – Salta to Chilecito. Image: Dakar
Meanwhile, Peugeot 3008 DKR cars claimed the three fastest times for the second time since the start of the 2017 Dakar. Sébastien Loeb, Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres locked out the podium on Tuesday’s shortened stage to make it an all-Peugeot overall top three again with the provisional leader board topped by Loeb and Elena.
The three surviving Peugeot 3008 DKR cars posted the three best times on Stage 8. Loeb and Elena topped Tuesday’s order with 4hr11min02 which put them 1min38 clear of team mates Peterhansel / Cottret who were second quickest (+3min35). The run by Despres / Castera was rewarded with third-best time (+5min35) and they are now back up to third overall, 6min19 ahead of Toyota’s Nani Roma / Alex Bravo.
…AND THEN THERE WAS A LANDSLIDE
Bad weather continued to affect the rally and forced the organisers to shorten the two competitive sections that made up Stage 8 from 492km in total to 417km, while servicing was exceptionally permitted between today’s two timed runs.
Competitors were then blocked by a landslide on the road section to Salta, Argentina, which also led to the cancellation of Wednesday’s Stage 9. The service vehicles aren’t expected to reach the north-west Argentine city before late into the night.