DAKAR RALLY

Racers face the elements on a stormy Stage Eight at the Dakar

Nothing was getting in Sébastien Loeb's way on Stage Eight © Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Competitors at the 2017 Dakar Rally spent last night separated from their crews due to the rules of the marathon stage. When the time came to hit the road bright and early this morning the racers and their machines were then pushed to the absolute limit.

A slippery start to Stage Eight saw the shootout between fellow Team Peugeot Total drivers Stéphane Perterhansel (FRA) and Sébastien Loeb (FRA) get underway once more. A sustained attack by Loeb over both parts of the timed special stage saw him emerge with the day’s quickest time. The WRC legend’s third stage win of this Dakar propelled him into the overall race lead as he leapfrogged Perterhansel in the general classification.

Underlining the dominance of the PEUGEOT 3008 DKR was Cyril Despres (FRA) who joined his team-mates on the Stage Eight podium. The result ensures the French marque holds a 1-2-3 in the overall rankings as the race returns to Argentina.

We also have a new leader in the truck race following today’s dramatic action as Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) helped Team Kamaz Master to finally wrestle top spot from defending champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD). Sotnikov’s Kamaz team-mate Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) was also boosted up the rankings with a third place on the stage to lie second overall.

Successfully holding onto his lead today was Sam Sunderland (GBR) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team thanks to a solid performance on the stage which saw him bag the third quickest time. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) also completed a fine marathon stage and was rewarded with a climb up the rankings to fourth overall.

Ignacio Casale (CHL) had targeted the second part of the marathon stage to make his mark on proceedings in the quad race and duly delivered the quickest time of the category. The stage win saw Casale take over five minutes out of race leader Sergey Karyakin’s (RUS) advantage over him. With four Dakar days remaining the Chilean is a little over ten minutes behind Karyakin in third overall.

With the latest extreme weather to hit the Dakar causing today’s racing to be trimmed by 73km we were hoping that tomorrow’s Super Belén stage would go ahead without any alterations needed. However, the worse flooding in 40 years to hit a region of the province of Jujuy in northern Argentina has caused massive landslides and brought roads in the area to a standstill. Dakar organisers have therefore taken the decision to cancel Stage Nine and resume the race on Thursday from Chilecito.

DAKAR RALLY

Stéphane Peterhansel puts the hammer down on the dunes © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Dakar gets back to business with a bang on epic marathon stage

The midpoint Rest Day of the 2017 Dakar Rally is already a distant memory as racers are left fending for themselves on the fringes of the world’s largest salt flat in Uyuni, Bolivia. Stage Seven is the first half of this year’s marathon stage so every competitor still in the race spends tonight separated from their mechanics and any work needed on their machines must be performed solo.

Adding to the increased difficulty that comes with a marathon stage have been the “extreme climatic conditions” we have been experiencing in Bolivia. Heavy downpours of rain have played havoc with the course and a redesigned Stage Seven gave us a timed special stage of 161km over mostly sandy terrain. Taking a vantage point of the action today was windsurfing legend Robby Naish who after touring the Rest Day bivouac got to see those same machines unleashed over open country.

Naish had a firsthand look at one of the day’s most impressive performances as Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) upped his lead in the car category with a stage win. The 12-time Dakar champion increased his advantage over fellow Team Peugeot Total driver Sébastien Loeb (FRA) by 48 seconds with the difference between the two Frenchman in first and second overall now standing at a tantalising 1m57s.

Cyril Despres (FRA), the third PEUGEOT 3008 DKR driver, slips back to fourth overall after conceding nine minutes to Peterhansel on Stage Seven. Meanwhile, there was something to celebrate for Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) of Toyota Gazoo Racing who secured a podium finish on today’s stage behind Despres’ two Peugeot team-mates.

The bikes were first to tackle today’s route and opening the road was Sam Sunderland (GBR) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team. Despite a navigation hiccup 38 kilometres into the special the race leader was able to recover and maintains his position at the top of the general classification overnight. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) is also in with a shout of a podium finish with the Austrian biker in fifth place overall. Considering neither rider has ever completed an entire Dakar Rally their achievements to date have been mightily impressive.

Elsewhere in the race, local crowds were on their feet to cheer Bolivian biker Walter Nosiglia Jager who secured a Top 10 finish on the stage in his homeland.

A podium finish on today’s quad stage has kept Ignacio Casale (CHL) in contact with race leader Sergey Karyakin (RUS). Thanks to Casale arriving in Uyuni as the third quickest quad biker he now stands 16 minutes behind Karyakin who will open the road tomorrow.

An already shortened stage was reduced by a further 20km for the truck class due to the final part of the track proving impassable even for the Dakar’s biggest beasts. Defending champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD) once again reacted well to the Team Kamaz Master trio of Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) breathing down his neck. De Rooy keeps his overall lead despite Sotnikov’s stage win who now sits second overall with Nikolaev third and Mardeev fourth.

Competitors with sound mechanical knowhow will hope to be rewarded tomorrow on the second half of the marathon stage. The timed special stage will account for 492km of the total 892km to be covered on Tuesday. For the 255 of the 318 vehicles that started the first stage in Paraguay still in the race the next challenge is to safely reach the Salta bivouac after recrossing the border into Argentina.

DAKAR RALLY

Matthias Walkner on the road to La Paz © Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Active Rest Day keeps Dakar racers on their toes in La Paz

The brakes were put on the 2017 Dakar Rally today as the competitors and crews enjoyed a much needed Rest Day in La Paz. With over 4,000 kilometres already ventured through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia there was anticipation in the bivouac of what’s to come on the second week of the toughest test of endurance motorsport has to offer.

With no racing on Sunday the Dakar camp in Bolivia’s capital city was a hive of activity from sunrise to sunset. Mechanics and engineers worked tirelessly on the cars, bikes, trucks and quads that remain in the race.

The world’s media were also busy in La Paz as they caught up with competitors to get their take on the race so far. With Team Peugeot Total occupying all three podium positions in the car category the questions came thick and fast for Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA), Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Cyril Despres (FRA). The French trio were happy to reflect on a solid first week of driving but also careful not to get too carried away with nearly 5,000 kilometres still to be covered.

Also looking to defend their strong position is the Red Bull KTM Factory Team who currently have Sam Sunderland (GBR) leading the bike race. Sunderland and his team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) are on a quest to deliver KTM their 16th consecutive Dakar win.

Team Kamaz Master are relishing their battle in the truck race with reigning champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD). With Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) all within striking distance of De Rooy we’re guaranteed plenty more drama when this contest gets back underway tomorrow.

There was also the chance today for race fans to come and have close up look at the bivouac and get a real taste of the action. One special guest having a good look around was windsurfing legend Robby Naish. The self-confessed motorhead was blown away by the scale of the operation that keeps the Dakar on the road and enjoyed a guided tour of the PEUGEOT 3008 DKR.

Tomorrow will give Naish the chance to see Peugeot’s machine as well as the rest of the Dakar convoy in action as we travel 622km to Uyuni. It’s the first half of this year’s marathon stage so competitors will be separated from their mechanics and will have to carry out any necessary repairs by themselves.

DAKAR RALLY

Torrential rainfall puts pay to Stage Six of the Dakar Rally

With much of Oruro and the surrounding area underwater this morning the Dakar Rally organisers had no choice but to cancel Stage Six. The “extreme climatic conditions” in the region saw competitor safety put first and the proposed 527-kilometre timed special stage between Oruro and La Paz called off.

Get a real sense of the torrential rain falling in Oruro and the impact it had on proceedings by watching/downloading today’s News Cut here.

Those competitors who remain in the race after a gruelling first week that has seen high-profile retirements, such as Nasser Al-Attiyah, Carlos Sainz and Toby Price, came into La Paz this afternoon. The racers were greeted by hoards of enthusiastic fans that lined the streets of the highest capital city on the planet.

Now comes a well-earned Rest Day in La Paz with racers searching for a slice of comfort after exiting the mudbath of the Oruro bivouac. Rest Day gives Dakar competitors a chance for a full service of their race vehicle, various media commitments and hopefully the chance to get some much needed shuteye.

The Rest Day also gives a chance for petrolheads such as windsurf legend Robby Naish to get an up close look at how the Dakar works. Naish is due in the La Paz bivouac on Sunday to catch up with crews such as Team Peugeot Total, the Red Bull KTM Factory Team and Team Kamaz Master. After a dramatic first week of action they’ll be no shortage of stories for the thrill-seeker to hear about.

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CLARK AND NASIR REVIEW THE SECOND HALF OF THE 2016 FORMULA 1 SEASON AND SHARE THEIR HOPE AND ASPIRATIONS FOR THE 2017 SEASON

ON ANOTHER NOTE WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING CONFIRM LANCE STROLL AT THE AUTOSPORT SHOW.

Williams is delighted to announce that Lance Stroll, who will race for WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING in the 2017 Formula One World Championship, will be appearing at this year’s Autosport Show (12th – 15th January 2017, NEC, Birmingham).
The Canadian will be taking to the Autosport International stage on Saturday 14th January, whilst Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams and Head of Performance Engineering Rob Smedley will be interviewed on Sunday 15thJanuary.
Stroll, who joins Williams following a dominant championship-winning year in European Formula 3, will be on stage to discuss his thoughts ahead of his first Formula One campaign.
Williams has already announced its plans to create a unique and interactive centrepiece for the Autosport Show in celebration of its 40th anniversary in Formula One, where fans will be transported through the British team’s 40-year history.
Claire Williams, Williams Martini Racing Deputy Team Principal, said: “We are pleased to confirm that Lance Stroll and Rob Smedley will be joining our 40th anniversary celebrations at Autosport International. It’s a great opportunity for fans to hear from Lance, and meet him, before he takes to the grid for the first time in Australia.”
Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased from: http://www.autosportinternational.com. Tickets for Williams’ experiential centrepiece are also available for a charitable donation to Williams Martini Racing’s official charity partner, the Spinal Injuries Association, which supports those affected by spinal cord injuries.

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DAKAR RALLY

Favourites rise and fall as the Dakar Rally returns to Bolivia

Things can change in a blink of an eye at the Dakar Rally and today’s mix of dunes and altitude delivered another dramatic twist in the tale. A crash for reigning bike race champ Toby Price (AUS) saw the defence of his title end as he was airlifted from the stage with a broken femur. In the car race Team Peugeot Total showed impressive dominance over their rivals despite suffering a few scares of their own.

12 months ago Toby Price was celebrating becoming the first Australian to win the Dakar as he won the two-wheel contest by 40 minutes. Today the Dakar has shown Price the other side of the coin with a crash shortly before the end of the 416km timed special stage causing a broken left leg and an early retirement from the race. Price had been on for the eighth stage win of his Dakar career when misfortune struck. We all wish him a speedy recovery from his injury.

There was a silver lining for the Red Bull KTM Factory Team with Price’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) winning Stage Four. Walkner and fellow KTM rider Sam Sunderland (GBR) both currently sit around 25 minutes behind bike race leader Joan Barreda (ESP). Stefan Svitko (SVK) is a further seven minutes behind the KTM Factory pair after four days of intense racing. Elsewhere in the standings Yamaha Factory Team rider Hélder Rodrigues is up to 12th overall after a solid performance on the dunes.

The overnight news that Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) had been forced to retire caused a stir in the San Salvador de Jujuy bivouac. However, for the car crews remaining in the race it was straight down to business this morning. Team Peugeot Total once again put the foot down on their title defence with Cyril Despres (FRA) becoming the French marque’s third different stage winner of the past three days.

It was not such smooth sailing for the rest of Peugeot’s D-ream Team with Carlos Sainz (ESP), Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and Sébastien Loeb (FRA) all battling hard to keep pace with the front of the race. While Despres’ fellow Frenchmen were able to stay in touch with the lead the news was not so good for Sainz. The Spaniard rolled his PEUGEOT 3008 DKR and lost over two hours while stuck on the stage. Sainz’s car will be assessed by Peugeot mechanics in the bivouac after suffering considerable damage (see the car in today’s News Cut).

After his first-ever four-wheel Dakar stage win Despres is now the new leader of the car race with a 4m08s advantage over Peugeot team-mate Peterhansel. Loeb is a couple minutes further back in fourth place overall.

A four-pronged attack by Team Kamaz Master saw the Russians exert considerable influence over the truck stage. A return to form for Ayrat Mardeev and further great efforts by Dmitry Sotnikov, Anton Shibalov and Eduard Nikolaev have Kamaz riding high in the truck category.

Race fans in Bolivia had a memorable result to celebrate as local hero Walter Nosiglia (BOL) rode to victory in the quads. The stage proved trickier for Nosiglia’s fellow South American Ignacio Casale (CHL) who was among many competitors struggling to get a grip on the navigation challenges that came early in the day. Despite the difficulties Casale is only 28s behind new quad race leader Sergey Karyakin (RUS).

If today’s tests of navigation and tough terrain were a strain on the Dakar convoy then the news for tomorrow is no better. Competitors will be moving across the Bolivian Altoplano with the altitude peaking at 4,500 metres above sea-level. The 500km of timed racing will take place over a variety of surfaces including two sections of dunes. There’s a feeling in the Tupiza bivouac tonight that we have really reached the main dishes of the 2017 Dakar Rally.

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast