Dakar : Cars - Leg 10
The loop around Copiapo was a feared notion by the majority of Dakar Rally contenders: a long grueling 490-kilometre-long challenge across hot sand and dunes. To many a competitor's relief, the itinerary had been previously cut down from the orginal
Carlos Sainz did rather well on this unknown terrain, considering his well-known dislike for sandy portions. The Spaniard's stage win today was the 15th of his still young rally-raid career.
Robby Gordon, who collected three Dakar stage victories on past editions, is stil trying to add another win to his score. At the controls of his Hummer, the American chased Sainz all day long and even bettered him at the final two checkpoints.
However, Gordon missed his objective by 21 seconds. That gave him second place at the stage's conclusion, over seven minutes ahead of third-placed Mark Miller.
"We had a good day," declared Gordon. "We are just losing about 20 seconds, so it's meaningless."
He did consider another aspect of the competition with more importance: "As soon as we are on faster trails, they (the Volkswagen drivers) shake us off. They have so much more power than we do!"
In addition to recording a fourth consecutive stage win today, Sainz added to his overall advantage and relegated his nearest rival – Volkswagen teammate Mark Miller – to a position 27'31" distant.
"We had a tough time with navigation all morning.
And when you struggle with navigating, it is hard to keep a good pace," Miller said, lamenting the long minutes wasted during Tuesday's run... in addition to the time he lost with a punctured tyre.
Overall third-placed Giniel de Villiers lost precious minutes as well today when his factory VW Race Touareg got stuck in a trough between dunes. The pressure is building on the South African, now 41'13" away from the front while teammate Sainz heads for a maiden Dakar victory.
"We were in the wrong place and ditched right into a hole. I lost 20 minutes trying to get out," explained de Villiers. "The front of the car is a bit bruised but the car is so sturdy, it's incredible. I hurt my back more than I hurt the car."
"There was nothing I could to to avoid it. It was just bad luck," he continued. "We just have a lot of bad luck. This is really not our Dakar!"
Nani Roma, still nursing an engine which continues to menacingly overheat, cannot expect to bring his Mitsubishi Lancer into anything better than 4th position in the general standings.
He might be over an hour away from Sainz, but he fully intends to save the diamond brand's honour by bringing the new Lancer home.