Confession: When doing these write-ups it always bugs me a little bit that Nani Roma is from Spain and not Italy. Also, I got a bit silly today.
Daily Dakar time. Today's stage was a very technical and twisty 355 km and after nearly two weeks of competitors facing eachother as God intended, skill against skill alone, the overall winners in the three categories look like they may be fairly well decided. Let me 'splain. No, actually there is too much. Let me sum up.
It was yet another stage win for Barreda Bort today. The Spaniard has been giving the competition trouble from the start, scoring more stage wins than any other rider. Unfortunately it only takes one bad day to ruin a racer's hopes of overall glory in Dakar and Barreda Bort had that day earlier in the rally, losing three hours, so despite his stage wins he isn't in the running for the overall. That said, by continuing his impressive pace and racking up the stage wins he is ensuring he stays on everyone's radar for next year. Dakar glory could very well be in this man's future.
Barreda may be out when it comes to winning the rally, but today's second place finisher has it pretty well in hand. After a slow start Cyril Despres has been having immense fun storming the castle (by which of course I mean the overall standings) and today took the inevitable step of moving into first place overall. His lead is a mere 1:37 over second place Faria, but Faria is his water carrier and all the bikes within 20 minutes are teammates. Despres could probably win this just by finishing in the top 5 every day, a relatively easy task for the four time champion.
The day's top 10:
1) Barreda Bort (ESP) - Husqvarna - 4:43:14
2) Despres (FRA) - KTM - +0:01:15
3) Goncalves (PRT) - Husqvarna - +0:02:44
4) Pedrero Garcia (ESP) - KTM - +0:04:27
5) Caselli (USA) - KTM - +0:06:56
6) Jakes (SVK) - KTM - +0:08:03
7) Botturi (ITA) - Husqvarna - +0:08:05
8) Faria (PRT) - KTM - +0:08:15
9) Rodrigues (PRT) - Honda - +0:09:34
10) Verhoeven (NLD) - Yamaha - +0:10:24
Despres moves to the front, and with four stages to go Botturi in fifth is the only non-KTM within a half hour of the lead. It looks like KTM has once again won this battle of wits.
The overall top 10:
1) Despres (FRA) - KTM - 30:47:04 +1 pos
2) Faria (PRT) - KTM - +0:01:37 -1 pos
3) Lopez Contardo (CHL) - KTM - +0:13:41 +0 pos
4) Jakes (SVK) - KTM - +0:18:21 +0 pos
5) Botturi (ITA) - Husqvarna - +0:24:25 +0 pos
6) Rodrigues (PRT) - Honda - +0:34:19 +1 pos
7) Svitko (SVK) - KTM - +0:39:22 +1 pos
8) Pedrero Garcia (ESP) - KTM - +0:40:18 +3 pos
9) Pain (FRA) - Yamaha - +0:47:02 -3 pos
10) Israel Esquerre (CHL) - Honda - +0:47:06 +0 pos
They said it was impossible but that's only because no Argentine ever had done it before. For the first time in Dakar history an Argentine driver has won a stage, and it happened in his home country. Terranova showed the advantage of knowing the terrain as he won today's stage by two minutes over X-Raid teammates Roma and Peterhansel. The never spectacular but always lurking De Villiers came home in fourth and Gordon continues to try to rebound from his plummet off the sand dune of despair with yet another top five stage finish. Today marked the end of what is known as "WRC-style" roads, which clearly favor the 4WD cars, tomorrow it's back into the always unpredictable dunes.
The day's top 10:
1) Terranova (ARG) - BMW - 3:57:58
2) Roma (ESP) - Mini - +0:02:07
3) Peterhansel (FRA) - Mini - +0:02:19
4) De Villiers (ZAF) - Toyota - +0:05:26
5) Gordon (USA) - Hummer - +0:06:51
6) Alvarez (ARG) - Toyota - +0:08:43
7) Gadaskin (RUS) - G-Force Proto - +0:13:37
8) Vasilyev (RUS) - G-Force - +0:13:57
9) Kahle (DEU) - SAM-Mercedes - +0:14:19
10) Novitskiy (RUS) - Mini - +0:14:56
With a 50 minute lead over second place I'd say it's pretty much inconceivable to doubt Peterhansel will win this one.
The overall top 10:
1) Peterhansel (FRA) - Mini - +0:28:12 +0 pos
2) De Villiers (ZAF) - Toyota - +0:52:38 +0 pos
3) Novitskiy (RUS) - Mini - +1:08:40 +0 pos
4) Roma (ESP) - Mini - +1:34:04 +0 pos
5) Terranova (ARG) - BMW - +1:58:49 +0 pos
6) Sousa (PRT) - Great Wall - +2:35:00 +0 pos
7) Chicherit (FRA) - SMG - +2:51:23 +0 pos
8) Errandonea (AND) - SMG - +3:02:38 +1 pos
9) Chabot (FRA) - SMG - +3:02:52 -1 pos
10) Thomasse (FRA) - Buggy MD Rallye - +3:26:51 +0 pos
19) Gordon (USA) - Hummer - +6:00:21 +0 pos
Things are looking up for the final remaining Race2Recovery car. After constant overheating problems throughout the first week of competition the Wildcat has performed flawless the last two days, finishing little more than two hours behind the stage winner and passing cars on stage. A few days ago you would have thought the car's chances of making it to the finish to have been completely dead, but fortunately they were only mostly dead, which is a big difference from all dead. Just a reminder to everyone, Race2Recovery is doing this as a charity effort to raise money and awareness to help injured soldiers. Doubters that this is a worthy cause? I don't think they exist. If you have the means, please consider donating to Help For Heroes (the official charity associated with Race2Recovery), Wounder Warrior Project, or a similar organization.
As former rally leader and last year's champion De Rooy would surely tell you at this point, Dakar is pain and anyone who says differently is selling something. After dominating the first week of the rally, winning five of the first seven days and stretching his lead to over 20 minutes on the competition, De Rooy can't catch a break. After blowing a turbo and losing nearly 90 minutes yesterday he struggled on today's stage, finishing ninth on the day, which drops him to fifth overall, over an hour behind rally leader Novitskiy and nearly a half hour behind third place Mardeev. With the way De Rooy's chances look at this point the only thing you can really do is go through his firesuit and look for loose change.
On the other end of things it was a good day for Karginov as he scored today's stage win, further confirming that week 2 is the week of the Kamaz. He won the stage solidly by about four minutes over the two Van Dens (Van Den Bosch and Van Den Brink). Kolomy, the only non-Kamaz within an hour of the leader in the overall, stopped a few times today with minor issues, losing nearly 20 minutes. This gives Novitskiy over a half hour of breathing room in the standings, the biggest lead we've seen in trucks up to this point.
The day's top 10:
1) Karginov (RUS) - Kamaz - 4:44:08
2) Van Den Bosch (NLD) - DAF - +0:03:39
3) Van Den Brink (NLD) - Ginaf - +0:04:12
4) Nikolaev (RUS) - Kamaz - +0:05:03
5) Versluis (NLD) - MAN - +0:05:30
6) Mardeev (RUS) - Kamaz - +0:05:41
7) Loprais (CZE) - Tatra - +0:05:46
8) Kuipers (NLD) - Iveco - +0:07:07
9) De Rooy (NLD) - Iveco - +0:07:13
10) Smink (NLD) - Ginaf - +0:07:36
After a disappointing 2012 team Kamaz is back in a big way this year. Four more stages and they will roll on to victory.
The overall top 10:
1) Nikolaev (RUS) - Kamaz - 27:59:31 +0 pos
2) Kolomy (CZE) - Tatra - +0:32:23 +0 pos
3) Mardeev (RUS) - Kamaz - +0:34:10 +0 pos
4) Karginov (RUS) - Kamaz - +0:55:01 +1 pos
5) De Rooy (NLD) - Iveco - +1:02:06 -1 pos
6) Loprais (CZE) - Tatra - +1:32:20 +0 pos
7) Versluis (NLD) - MAN - +1:50:28 +0 pos
8) Van Vliet (NLD) - MAN - +2:20:10 +0 pos
9) Kuipers (NLD) - Iveco - +2:30:16 +0 pos
10) Van Den Brink (NLD) - Ginaf - +2:42:25 +0 pos