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.

DAKAR RALLY


Momentum shifts as the Dakar climbs to the clouds on day three

 

Three days into the 2017 Dakar Rally and the first real navigation challenges of the contest have caused major shifts in the formative leaderboards. With waypoints proving difficult to locate in the thin air of northern Argentina we’ve seen crews and their machines pushed to breaking point as the world’s toughest endurance race lives up to its reputation.

Standing up to every challenge that came their way on Stage Three was Team Peugeot Total who claimed a monumental 1-2-3 result on the route from Tucumán to Jujuy. Reigning car race champion and 12-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) showed his class over the entire 364km of timed racing to take the stage win. Joining Stéphane on the Stage Three podium were his Peugeot team-mates Carlos Sainz (ESP) and Sébastien Loeb (FRA).

It’s also a Peugeot 1-2-3 in the general classification with Loeb leading from Sainz and Peterhansel. The fourth member of the D-ream Team – Cyril Despres (FRA) – is running 7th overall after an extremely satisfying day’s work by the French marque.

It was tougher going for Toyota Gazoo Racing with both Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and Giniel De Villiers (RSA) suffering significant stoppages on the stage. Both former Dakar winners had been riding high after two stages but both saw a major dent put in their chances of a win this year on this stage. Al-Attiyah encountered his problems when he ran off the route and fell down a hole, an event that lost him a front wheel. The incident saw the Qatari lose over two hours on stage winner Peterhansel. Meanwhile, De Villiers had a fuel pump problem on his Hilux which slowed him down before taking 30 minutes to fix.

The signs were more encouraging for Orlen Team’s Kuba Przygonski (POL) who brought home his MINI for a 10th place finish on the stage that lands him in the Top 10 overall.

The battle at the front of the bike race swung in favour of Honda today as their lead rider Joan Barreda (ESP) collected the 15th stage win of his Dakar career. When reigning champion Toby Price (AUS) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team lost 20 minutes due a navigation mistake opening the road, Barreda pounced to take advantage. The Spanish rider now leads the overall classification with Price’s KTM team-mate Sam Sunderland (GBR) 10m20s back in second place. Price himself has slipped to 5th overall while KTM’s third factory rider Matthias Walkner (AUT) rounds off the Top 10.

As the Dakar climbed to 5,000 metres above sea level on Stage Three one former winner of the truck race took the chance to climb up the general classification. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dakar winner in 2013, took full advantage of the mechanical problems suffered by defending champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD) to approach the summit of the truck race. Nikolaev can call on the support of fellow Team Kamaz Master drivers Dmitry Sotnikov, Anton Shibalov and Ayrat Mardeev as the Russians look to secure top spot on the stages to come.

FORMULA 3

FACES GOING PLACES

ENAAM AHMED GOING DOWN UNDER TO RISE & SHINE

Enaam Ahmed, friend of F1 Weekly from his sensational karting career, is hoping to get his 2017 racing campaign rolling to match the conclusion of his 2016 season.

The Tasman series may have flown into extinction like the Dodo bird, but the New Zealand-based Castrol Toyota Racing Series has feathered the careers of several promising young drivers over the past few years.

Recent past champions include home grown talent Mitch Evans, who went on to become GP3 Champion. Lance Stroll won the championship in 2015 and this season will see action in Formula 1 with Williams.

In 2016, Lando Norris took the title and went on to win the Formula Renault Euro cup.

Enaam is now 16, the minimum age requirement to compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, and with two race winning seasons of open wheel competition behind him, is looking forward to championship challenge against not only much older drivers, but also drivers who raced last year in the same series.

The opening round of the 2017 Championship is on January 14 at Ruapuna near Christchurch. Each round features three races and is staged on successive weekends; the final event on February 12 at Manfeild is the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix.

After winning five karting championships in his final season of karting in 2014, Enaam raced to Rookie of the Year honors, and 5th overall, in the 2015 British MSA Formula Championship. He also raced in selected rounds of the Northern European-based SMP Formula 4 Series; winning five races, including all three at Pärnu in Estonia.

The 2016 season saw Enaam step up to the BRDC British F3 and in the opening round at Snetterton he was a race winner and also finished on the podium in the other two races of the weekend. He was classified 5th in the overall standings in this very competitive series. He then completed the 2016 racing season on a high note by winning the British F3 Autumn Trophy.

The car used in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series is the Italian Tatuus single-seater, powered by a 1.8 liter Toyota engine which produces around 160 kWs running on an 85 percent ethanol bio-fuel.

Michelin is the official tire supplier.

Enaam will race with Giles Motorsport; his teammates will be Australian Luis Leeds and Dutch driver Richard Verschoor.

Quick and consistent, Enaam’s fighting spirit has been the hallmark of this young racer from London town.

Racing so far from home base, Enaam said, “I’m really excited to be going into TRS with such fierce competition. It’s going to be a really good challenge to go up against these experienced guys as I wasn’t old enough to do it last year.

“Let’s see how it goes!”

  • Nasir Hameed