With regularity and without any razzmatazz, Stéphane Peterhansel is well on the way to his eleventh win in the Dakar (five of which in cars), demonstrating his outstanding talent. After the mid-race rest day, on 13 January, the contenders set off again, this time on the long tracks of Argentina, with an 852 km stage including 593 timed kilometres. In the car category, among the teams supported technically by Motul, team SMG of Philippe Gache is showing qualities allowing it to fight among the leaders, with four duos in the top ten! The brilliant Guerlain Chicherit took the win in the eighth stage, which was shortened owing to huge river floods, but Carlos Souza managed to make up for the delay incurred at the beginning of the rally and his regularity is paying off, allowing him to clinch 6th overall.
Team MD Rallye is on their heels, Pascal Thomasse taking 10th place. "'A heavy heart, is what we have after our first week of the race,' he admitted. 'We have put all our determination and energy into achieving our stated goal of arriving in the top ten. We've had a mix of adventures and misadventures over the days but the one occurrence most noticed by the road show was undoubtedly a forward roll in the dunes, without stopping and going on to finish the stage among the best!'
For Éric Vigouroux, things improved after a laborious start to the rally, but the race remains difficult for his Chevrolet Trophy Truck and he is in 25th place. 'I don't remember any start to the Dakar as difficult,' he says. 'I must add that I haven't raced in the Dakar since 2009 and, in Africa, the pace increased gradually. Here, straight from the start we began with four stages in soft sand, heat and fesh fesh. The mechanical parts have been highly solicited and today I can truly say the car is reliable, which gives me great satisfaction.'
Also supported by Motul, Polish team Neo Rally Raid places the BMW X5 driven by Piotr Beaupré in 41st place.
In the motorcycles category, team HRC supported technically by Motul is among the teams you now have to reckon with. Johnny Campbell's difficult beginnings didn't prevent him from clinching a magnificent 2nd place in the eighth stage, but it's Helder Rodrigues who is the best placed of the team at the end of the ninth stage which he finished 5th, allowing him to rank 7th overall. At the arrival, he said: 'It was a long day, without any major navigation difficulty but very hard for the machine, tyres and physique. I didn't want to take too many risks because the route was quite dangerous, so I'm satisfied with this result.' Argentinian, Javier Pizzolito had slightly more difficulty in coping with the difficulties of this nerve-racking day, but took 12th overall.
Felipe Rios, KTM rider of Peruvian team Socopur, is continuing his sure advance by coming 30th while we find Frenchman, Alain Duclos, in 36th place.
Five stages remain before the arrival in Santiago de Chili, after crossing the Andes Cordillera and the legendary Atacama Desert. So anything can still happen!
Photo credits: Maindru Photo/ teamhrc.com