Dakar - Cars - Leg 7
Many unexpected happenings occurred during the first week of the Dakar Rally's maiden South American journey. The teams now have a day's break in Valparaiso following what has been a difficult week for many drivers competing in the car category...
kept turning things around as three Mitsubishi Lancers were added to the retirement list and rally leader Nasser Al Attiyah, incontestably a number to watch at the controls of his BMW X3CC, was excluded from the event after missing way points.
The latest surprise took place on the seventh leg as the rally moved from Argentina into Chile while the Mitsubishi team's Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret went through a bad day indeed.
Their new Lancer's engine caught fire 57 kilometres into the timed stage but was quickly put out. Back on course, multiple Dakar winner Peterhansel was again forced to stop 20 kilometres later, this time for good. Waiting for assistance and packing everything up became the game plan.
With Masuoka out on the first day and Alphand retiring on Thursday, Mitsubishi team boss Dominique Serieys was pinning his hopes on the sole remaining crew, that of Nani Roma and Lucas Cruz.
The Volkswagen outfit has fared much better luck so far. However, if everything seems well orchestrated from outside, the inside story appears to be that many things are a bit hectic.
If VW loses this absolutely golden opportunity to clinch its first Dakar victory due to management and organisational problems, the German team will lose all credibility...
Sainz, de Villiers and Miller presently hold the top three positions in the general rankings and have no direct rivals to worry about. Except for Nani Roma that is, but the orders at Mitsubishi are to simply bring the car home, an understandable measure in the circumstances.
The Lancer is a brand new machine in need of further development, and the team's objective is to collect all data possible in order to transform it into a solid and reliable contender.
At the conclusion of today's seventh leg, Carlos Sainz signed his third win of the event. Taking the start behind Volkswagen teammates Giniel de Villiers and Mark Miller, the Spaniard was quite pleased to learn that he took over the rally lead by nine seconds on de Villiers.
Sainz is 13'59" ahead of fellow VW driver Miller in the overall standings, 29'16" ahead of Roma, and holds over an hour's lead on Robby Gordon and his impressive Hummer.