The 'Dakar' is living up to its reputation, with tracks that require concentration, endurance and speed, and a show that is quite simply superb! After the cancellation of the sixth stage owing to snowfall in the Paso San Francisco, at 4,700 metres altitude, the race picked up its speed again and, in the evening of 9 January, the competitors reached Antofagasta, approximately the halfway point. Out of the 350 teams still contending, those supported by Motul are distinguishing themselves by excellent performances.
For instance, team Toyota Auto Body is clearly in the lead in the T2 standings reserved for production cars. With a lead of over one hour over the second, Jun Mitsuhashi and Alain Gehennec can manage their race quite serenely. In the two-wheel drive standings, it's MD Rallye Sport which, despite the abandonment by Roger Audas and Guy Neveu, is playing its game best with the buggy of Pascal Thomasse and Pascal Larroque having a comfortable lead of 30 minutes over the closest contender, while keeping a fine 14th place in the overall standings.
As for quads, Uruguay Racing Team is distinguishing itself: as early as the first stage, Sergio Lafuentes surprised everyone by clinching the win ahead of the favourites. He even went as far as doing it again the following day by bagging the best time of the special. And it wasn't before the third stage that he was dethroned by the specialists of this discipline. At the end of the eighth stage, he occupies a fine 7th place.
Turning to motorbikes, after excellent times at the beginning of the event, Alain Duclos, whose team Giofil Aprilia is also supported technically by Motul, experienced a difficult seventh stage which led to him falling behind in the overall standings. Meanwhile, Thierry Bethys of team TB Racing, remains regular on his Yamaha, in the first thirty.
But everything is still up for grabs and, in such a trying offroad rally, anything can still happen!
Image: TB Racing