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DAKAR RALLY

Dakar dynasties extended in emphatic fashion at chequered flag

clockwise) Stéphane Perterhansel, Sam Sunderland, Sébastien Loeb & Team Kamaz Master © Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

There was no containing the outpouring of emotion at the finish line of the 2017 Dakar Rally. All offroad racers making it to the end of this year’s edition have stood up extreme weather and terrain on an unprecedented scale. With this being widely regarded as the toughest Dakar ever to be held in South America it should be no surprise that the teams rich in experience came out on top.

Team Peugeot Total absolutely dominated the car category from start to finish and have been rewarded with a clean sweep of the podium positions. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean-Paul Cottret (FRA) successfully defended their title to give Monsieur Dakar his 13th Dakar win (six in bikes and now seven in cars). The back-to-back champions were pushed all the way by team-mates Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MON) who finish as runners-up in only their second attempt at the race. Also learning on the job are Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) and the pair of former bikers have backed up their Silk Way Rally win with the final spot on the 2017 Dakar podium.

Doing their best to keep pace with the PEUGEOT 3008 DKRs were former winners Giniel De Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) of Toyota Gazoo Racing who had to settle for fifth place overall. Also coming inside the Top 10 were the MINIs of Kuba Przygoński (POL)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) and Mohamed Abu Issa (QAT)/Xavier Panseri (FRA).

Things changed but also stayed the same in the bike contest as Sam Sunderland (GBR) became the first British winner of the Dakar as he handed the Red Bull KTM Factory Team their 16th consecutive title. Sunderland and team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) kept their cool despite never having previously finished a Dakar to maintain the proud reputation of KTM at motorsport’s toughest test of endurance.

Among the best of the rest were Hélder Rodrigues (PRT), a ninth Top 10 finish, Štefan Svitko (SVK), Top 25 despite receiving more than four hours in time penalties and Anastasiya Nifontova (RUS), the female biker conquering the Dakar on her first attempt. There were also encouraging performances from CS Santosh (IND) and Bolivian biker brothers Walter Jr. and Daniel Nosiglia Jager who gave their home fans plenty to cheer.

Peterhansel’s victory in the car race brings him level with legendary Russian trucker Vladimir Chagin (RUS) as the pair now both have seven single category wins. Since retiring from competition Chagin has been the mentor to Team Kamaz Master’s new generation of drivers. The first of these young guns to win multiple Dakars is Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) who has added success this year to the title he won in 2013. Dmitry Sotnikov’s (RUS) fine performance ensured that Kamaz occupied both top steps of the final truck podium.

Ignacio Casale (CHL) was full of emotion as he crossed the finish line to take the runners-up spot in the quad race behind Sergey Karyakin (RUS). It’s been a long road back from injury for the Chilean who won the Dakar in 2014 and at the finish line in Argentina he struggled to contain his feelings after fighting back onto the podium.

Everybody involved in the 2017 Dakar Rally will not forget this race in hurry. The routes and bivouacs have been pounded by “extreme climatic conditions” and any competitor making it to the end will have had to have summoned superhuman strength. We salute all involved with the event and look forward to more drama to come on the 40th anniversary of the Dakar in 12 months time.

NB: All results are provisional until the final technical verifications of the race vehicles has been completed. These checks are scheduled to have been carried out by 18:45 local time.

DAKAR RALLY

The stage is set for a grand finale at the 2017 Dakar Rally

The big contenders at the Dakar are ready for a race to the line © Marcelo Maragni/Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

The 9,000km of the 2017 Dakar Rally is coming to a close with the Buenos Aires finish line now just three days away. With racing suspended on Wednesday due to raging thunderstorms and landslides we get back underway tomorrow as the Dakar convoy heads south through Argentina.

Dakar competitors were given the chance to recharge their batteries as they travelled the 675km between Salta and Chilecito over tarmac due to the cancelation of today’s stage. This gave the guys at the front of the race the chance to devise their tactics for the final few stages of the contest.

After coming through the marathon stage with his lead intact Sam Sunderland (GBR) is breaking new ground in his Dakar career having never previously made it to the second week of the race. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider currently enjoys a cushion of just over 20 minutes from Pablo Quintanilla (CHL) in second place. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) is another rider yet to cross the finish line at his previous Dakar attempts. The Austrian biker is currently fourth overall, 34m14s behind Sunderland, and has his sights set on a podium finish.

The gaps are tighter at the head of the car race with less than two minutes separating race leader Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and his Peugeot team-mate Stéphane Perterhansel (FRA). Monsieur Rally and Monsieur Dakar will go head-to-head once again on tomorrow’s 449km timed special stage between Chilecito and San Juan. Occupying the final podium spot is Cyril Despres (FRA), also of Team Peugeot Total, as the five-time Dakar bike race winner continues to impress on four wheels.

A bittersweet Stage Eight for Team Kamaz Master allowed them take the lead of the truck race but also saw Ayrat Mardeev (RUS), 2015 winner, lose time due to getting stuck in the sand. The new name at the top of the general classification is Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) who leads his Kamaz team-mate Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) by 1m46s. Waiting for the chance to fight back on Stage Ten is defending truck race champion Gerard De Rooy (NDL). If you’re after late fireworks then keep your eyes on these big beasts going flat out for the final few days.

A win on Stage Eight of the quad category was a signal of intent from Ignacio Casale (CHL) as he brought race leader Sergey Karyakin (RUS) into sight. With three Dakar days remaining the Chilean in third overall is a little over ten minutes behind Karyakin.

When the Dakar gets back underway tomorrow expect soaring temperatures to play their part as the racers try to retrieve their rhythm. The navigational challenges that have been a trademark of this Dakar are also back with a vengeance on the route to San Juan. With Buenos Aires now less than 2,000km away every kilometre is crucial as the gaps between glory and agony begin to close.

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.

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.