CALAMA, Chile - After a disastrous motorcycling day on Monday on the down run to Iquique that cost him more than three hours Helder Rodrigues rode like a champion en route to Calama with a splendid and irrefutable victory.
SPANISH FLYERS: KTM rider Marc Coma (right) leads lady Honda rider and fellow-Spaniard Laia Sanz on Tuesday's Stage 9 of the 2015 the Dakar Rally between Iquique and Calama. The race will finish on January 17. Image: AP / Felipe Dana
Second was Paulo Gonçalves who maintained the pressure on Marc Coma.
Amng the cars and deprived of all hope of winning a second consecutive Dakar from the very first stage due to a technical problem with his Mini, all that remained for Nani Roma was several prestige stage victories to put the smile back on his face.
It's now mission-accomplished thanks to a fine show of force in Calama.
RODRIGUES IN FULL CONTROL
Back to the bikes... Rodrigues, out of the reckoning for the general standings, has nothing to lose. The Honda HRC rider had ample scope to go on full attack over the 450km Stage 9 special that finished in Calama to open up a major gap on his rivals.
He was In full control; as a two-stages winner he finished almost four minutes ahead of runner-up and team mate Paulo Gonçalves.
That was no worry for the second-placed rider in the general standings, however, since he was satisfied with regaining 3min43 from Coma and now seems to be the only rider able to trouble the KTM biker after nine stages.
It should be said that with third on the day Coma was able to grin and bear it, distancing Pablo Quintanilla a little more before having to deal with the problem of Gonçalves. Finishing 23min15 behind the stage winner, the Chilean suffered a major blow, as did Toby Price who lost more than 23 minutes.
After keeping up with the pace through the first half of the special, Joan Barreda finished 19min47 behind Gonçalves, while Javier Pizzolito and Stefan Svitko, respectively fifth and sixth, where also more than 20 minutes off the pace.
As for lady rider Laia Sanz and Juan Pedrero, their Tuesday performances were nothing like those of Monday, finishing 43min20 and 1hour08 behind the stage winner.
Victor Gallegos, fifth on his first Dakar, took by a whisker his first victory on the most prestigious rally-raid in the world. Though disappointing since the start in Buenos Aires, the Chilean finally achieved his goal on the way to Calama with his best performance on the Dakar.
With a lead of more than 15 minutes over Pole Rafal Sonik at the finish, Gallego left his rivals trailing in his wake. Sonik can be satisfied with his special because since he regained 10 minutes from Ignacio Casale who only finished fourth, Sonik re-took control of the general standings by four minutes.
Four days from the finish, the battle is raging between the two men.
Though 135th at the end off Stage 1 out of Buenso Aires, Nani Roma finished Tuesday first at the end of Stage 9. This meteoric rise was of course expected of the Mini driver, to whom the loss of all hope in the general standings on the very first day of the rally was a major blow.
However, far from giving up, the Spaniard decided to pull out all the stops and prove that without his breakdown on the first day he would have been a serious pretender for the final podium. His impressive stage victory by 6min27 over the current general standings leader was a fine illustration of this spirit.
NOT A GOOD DAY FOR GINIEL
Nonetheless, rather than taking umbrage at this result, Qatari driver Yazeed al-Rajh (see video below) can be very happy with a special stage on which he extended his lead over his nearest rival, South Africa's Giniel de Villiers, by 15 minutes.
The South African, who paid dearly for a navigation error, was even beaten by Vladimir Vasilyev, who again displayed his skill after his surprise triumph on Stage 5. As a result, the Russian enters the top eight.
In the general standings, third place is still occupied by Yazeed al-Rajhi. Though less flamboyant than on Sunday (Jan 11) he gave up 27 minutes to the day’s winner through driving for 200km without brakes. The Saudi was more fortunate than Bernhard Ten Brinke who lost several hours on the tracks to Calama.
Cyril Despres enjoyed his best performance since the start of the rally, finishing 10th on the stage.
Full results when we get them.
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VIDEO: Take a close-up on Yazeek al-Rajhi
Stage 9 - Inside Dakar 2015 - Y. Alrajhi - Car by Dakar
January 13 Stage 9 results (to come)