TRYING TO DO IT IN THE DUST: South African Toyota crew Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie at speed on Tuesday - but they lost time with a lost way point. Image: Toyota SA / Marc Bow
CALAMA, Chile - Dakar 2015 served up a curve ball for the race crews on Stage 9 on Jan 13 with not only a challenging route from Iquique to Calama but also a particularly hard-to-find way point that had many crews scrambling around, searching for the elusive beacon in the Atacama dust.
While some crews lost significant time the Toyota Imperial Dakar Team's Giniel de Villiers and German navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz managed to restrict their loss to only 15 minutes.
"We knew we had to try something special today," said a disappointed De Villiers from the bivouac at Calama. "Dirk identified a slightly shorter route for us and if it came off we would have taken a fair bit of time from Nasser (al-Attiyah, rally leader).
ROMA WON STAGE
"As it turned out, it wasn't the right decision, and the entire situation was made worse when we couldn't find one of the way points in the choking dust."
While most crews struggled to find the way point, former winner Nani Roma (Mini) and team mate al-Attiyah managed to find the spot before the rest and Roma won the stage, followed six minutes later by al-Attiyah. By the time the dust settled over Stage 9 al-Attiyah held a 23min58 lead over De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz.
Fellow Toyota driver Yazeed al-Rajhi held on to third overall, 16 minutes further back.
Team principal Glyn Hall said from Calama: "In a race like this it is important to focus on the positives. Giniel and Dirk tried to do something extraordinary but it simply didn't go entirely to plan. Had they pulled it off we may have been right on Nasser's tail or even leading the Dakar.
"Giniel really pushed hard today and was set on taking time from Nasser. He led for a large part of the stage but then they had the problem with the way point. As it stands, we lost some time to the lead, but at the same time we increased our lead over third-placed a;-Rajhi. So, all in all, a good result despite the elusive way point."
WAY-POINT SEARCH COSTS POULTER HOUR
For Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie, in the second South African Toyota Imperial Hilux, the way point in question also presented difficulties. Poulter said after the stage: "By the time we reached that point the ground had been churned up a lot. It is also an area filled with fine fesh-fesh dust and the crews ahead of us were milling around trying to find the way point.
"As a result we couldn't see much and it took us more than an hour to pin down the spot before we could move on."
The pair posted the 27th-fastest time on today's stage but due to the other crews also losing time in the thick dust they maintained their 18th position overall. They will have to start 27th on the road for Stage 10, which places them in the midst of slower crews, together with the resulting dust.
Hall added: "We've still got four stages to go, so there's plenty of racing to come, but the reality is that, after today, we probably can't catch Nasser on outright pace. Then again, anything can happen on the Dakar, and often does. We'll just keep pushing as hard as we can and see which way the chips fall come Buenos Aires on January 17."
Today's (Jan 14) Stage 10 will see the entire Dakar circus relocate to Argentina with a 385km liaison. The competitive section of the stage is 35 km and will starts once the crews have crossed the border back into Argentina.
The route will take them over sand, soil and a short tarmac section and ascend from 360 m in altitude to more that 4500m before dropping back down to 3400m. This is the last of the completely barren desert stages before the Dakar returns to the lusher climes of Argentina.
Stay with Wheels24 for daily coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Stage 9 result
1 ROMA (ESP), PÉRIN (FRA) Mini 4hr41min56
2 AL-ATTIYAH (QAT), BAUMEL (FRA) Mini +6min27
3 CHICHERIT (FRA), WINOCQ (FRA) Buggy +14min09
4 VASILYEV (RUS), ZHILTSOV (RUS) Mini +15min52
5 DE VILLIERS (ZAF), VON ZITZEWITZ (DEU) Toyota Hilux +21min58
6 ALRAJHI (SAU), GOTTSCHALK (DEU) Toyota +27min16
7 HOLOWCZYC (POL), PANSERI (FRA)Mini +29min30
8 TERRANOVA (ARG), GRAUE (ARG) Mini +30min34
9 GORDON (USA), CAMPBELL (USA) Gordini +35min59 10 DESPRES (FRA), PICARD (FRA) Peugeot +45min22
Overall ranking after SS9
1 Nasser al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team 31hr29min38
2 Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +23:58
3 Yazeed Al-Rahji (SAU)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU) Toyota +39:29
4 Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini +1hr17:41
5 Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini +2hr01:46
6 Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Toyota +2hr51:39
7 Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mitsubishi +2hr53min35
8 Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +3hr02min41
9 Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +3nr34min07
10 Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) +3hr41min24
Problems with the international AFP wire are causing problems with the FULL result from Tuesday. Wheels24 will get them to you as soon as they arrive. Meanwhile, take a look at the day's video:
Stage 9 - Car/Bike - Stage Summary - (Iquique... by Dakar