Sainz strengthens Dakar chokehold
Spaniards Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz won their first stage on this year’s Dakar Rally when they took their diesel-engined Volkswagen Race Touareg to victory in special stage 10 on Tuesday.
Sainz, a former world rally champion, revelled in the rally-type conditions of the 238-km stage between La Serena and Santiago in Chile and finished 28 seconds ahead of France’s Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret (BMW X3) and 1m 02s in front of VW team-mates Mark Miller of America and South African Ralph Pitchford.
Sainz remains in the overall lead for the fifth day in a row, 10m 06s ahead of team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and 28m 19s quicker than Miller and Pitchford. With just four of the rally’s 14 special stages remaining, all in Argentina, Volkswagen is looking good for an historic 1-2-3 finish.
Al-Attiyah was fourth on today’s stage, while defending Dakar champions Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were 11th after riding shotgun again for their front-running team-mates. They remain seventh overall, 4h 46m 13s in arrears.
All three South African-built Nissan Navaras entered by the Belgian Team Overdrive are now out of the rally. South African Alfie Cox retired on stage five after crashing into a ravine while lying fifth overall, Russian Alexander Mironenko rolled his Navara and former Polish rally champion Krzysztof Holowczyc, fifth overall last year, went out on Monday’s stage nine with a broken pinion shaft on the rear diff.
Today’s stage, the final one in Chile, saw the competitors bid farewell to the Atacama desert and undertake a more technical and undulating route on hard surfaces that wound through a landscape of mountains. It was a tricky special stage, dotted with vegetation and cacti.
Spain’s Marc Coma (KTM) scored his fourth stage win of the 2010 Dakar in the bike competition today, 2m 06s ahead of Frenchman David Fretigne (Yamaha) and 2m 36s in front of Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha).
Overall leader Cyril Despres of France (KTM) was sixth but still enjoys a comfortable 1h 22m 49s gap over second-placed Pal-Anders Ullevalseter of Norway (KTM). The race for second is far from over, with Francisco Lopes Contardo of Chile (Aprilia) 1m 18s behind the Norwegian and Rodrigues only 52s further back.
Wednesday’s stage 11 from Santiago to San Juan in Argentina will cover 434 km and will take competitors out of Chile through the Paso Libertadores in the Andes at an altitude of 3 500 metres.
The special stage section is 220 km in Argentina and the first 50 km will be the only portion of the rally contested at high altitude and in the snow line. Racing high in the Andes, the highest mountain range outside Asia and the world’s longest continental mountain range (extending 7 000 km over seven countries), the surviving crews will catch a glimpse of its highest peak, Aconcagua, 6 859 m above sea level.
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) VW Race Touareg, 36h 34m 45s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) VW Race Touareg, +10m 06s
3 Mark Miller (America) VW Race Touareg, +28m 19s
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) BMW X3, +2h 14m 20s
5 Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW X3, +2h 30m 59s
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM, 39h 15m 59s
2 Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM, +1h 22m 49s
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Chile) Aprilia, 1h 24m 07s
4 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Yamaha, +1h 24m 59s
5 Alain Duclos (France) KTM, 1h 57m 35s