For a rally of the Dakar kind,
casualties and mishaps are a way of life. In the Rally Dakar 2017 we have
already seen India’s very own Aravind KP of Sherco TVS calling it quits after
he had a big fall 40 km into Stage 3 and injuring his shoulder. Toyota’s Nasser
Al-Attiyah had to bow out after his car suffered a serious mechanical glitch.
Now in stage 4, defending motorbike champion Toby Price, KTM’s 2016 winner, exited
the race after he broke his femur in a fall. Team Peugeot star Carlos Sainz battled
back from the brink of abandonment and is now out of contention.
Thursday’s 416 kilometre
special stage from San Salvador de Juluy in Argentina to Tupiza in Bolivia, the
longest timed section so far, again took the drivers and riders above 3500
metres. With dangerous sand dunes and tricky navigation to deal with as well,
many got lost along the way. The fifth stage from Tupiza to Oruro will take the
participants on a run of 692 km, out of which the timed section of 447 km will
test the riders with a wide variety of terrain and more than a handful of
After being set to land
another stage win having recovered from losing time earlier in the day, Price’s
race ended after 371 kilometres of Stage 4. The Australian fell heavily and had
to be airlifted to hospital where it was confirmed he suffered a break to his
left femur. His retirement ensures there will be a new winner to the motorbike
race this year. Another KTM Factory Team rider, Austrian Matthias Walkner, took the win two minutes ahead of Joan Barreda,
but the Spaniard still leads the overall standings.
Frenchman Cyril Despres recorded his first victory at the Dakar behind the
wheel of a car and took a big chunk of time out of his rivals in the process. The
big story of the day on four wheels came late in the day though when 2010
winner Sainz rolled his car and ended up in a ravine, leaving him waiting for
assistance and bringing a premature end to his victory hopes. He did manage to
get back underway, but lost more than two hours to his countryman Despres. After
a 1-2-3 on Wednesday in Stage3, Sainz wasn’t the only Team Peugeot driver to
hit big trouble with Stéhane Peterhansel losing 15 minutes having taken a track
in the wrong direction and Sébastien Loeb coming in 22 minutes down the road
after engine trouble.
Ignacio Casale dropped down to
second in the overall rankings as home favourite Walter Nosiglia stormed to victory in front of some passionate
supporters in Tupiza. The Bolivian reached the finish line after six hours and
six minutes, beating new race leader Sergey Karyakin into second place.
Just 30 seconds separated the
leaders after nearly five hours of intense battle in the truck race. Gerard de Rooy prevailed, picking up
his first stage win of the year in the process. Airat Mardeev was second on
what proved a strong day for the Kamaz team with Anton Shibalov third and
Dmitry Sotnikov fourth.
It was a sad day for Toby
Price. The Australian was leading on the last part of the special, but lost
control of his KTM at more than 90 kmph and fractured his left thigh bone in a
fall, meaning the Dakar is over for the 2016 winner. He may well be leaving his
trophy for Joan Barreda, who is
solidly installed at the top of the general standings. The Honda rider almost
won another stage even after having had to open the way. In the car category, Cyril
Despres had a dream of a day, picking up his first stage victory behind the
wheel of a car and climbing to the top of the general standings. The Frenchman
took advantage of the problems encountered by his team-mates Stéphane
Peterhansel, Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz, with the Spaniard in danger of
exiting the rally. In the quad race,
Walter Nosiglia finally won his first victory on the Dakar in his home country
and not without panache. Matthias Walkner never gave up against Joan Barreda,
who has been head and shoulders above the rest for two days. The Austrian
managed to catch his Spanish rival over the last kilometres to grab his second
stage victory on the Dakar after the one he won in 2015. After two withdrawals,
perhaps the time is ripe for him to achieve a fine result in Buenos Aires.A
The day after Nasser
Al-Attiyah exited the race when he was on the point of capturing the lead in
the general standings, Carlos Sainz encountered similar misfortune. There were
only eight kilometres left for the Spaniard to cover in order to make up
precious ground on his rivals, when he crashed off the tracks and rolled the
car into a ravine. This mishap crushed the ambitions of the 2010 winner for
this year’s edition and may potentially lead to him withdrawing from the race
for the fifth consecutive time.
BMW MINI: Stage 4 of the 2017 Dakar proved eventful, but it was
successful for many of the MINI competitors, with six pairings continuing to
improve on their overall position in the standings despite the challenges of
this tough stage. A difficult start to the 521km stage for X-raid Team’s Mikko
Hirvonen (FIN) and Michel Périn (FRA) in the #303 MINI John Cooper Works Rally
car was not indicative of the stage as a whole. Having dropped to 10th place at
the first checkpoint, the Finnish driver quickly regained pace with strong
navigation support from his French co-driver. The reward was 2nd place at the
finish line in Tupiza to move them up to 3d overall.
HERO MOTOCORP: After mixed
fortunes for the team in Stage 3, there was no let up for the riders in the
416-km fourth competitive stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally that ran from San
Salvador Jujuy to Tupiza in Bolivia. The first part of the special, with a mix
of very soft sand and a deep layer of fine dust, made riding a challenge of
skill and mental fortitude. But despite the hard riding conditions, made even
tougher by the altitude, both Hero Motosports Team Rally riders, Joaquim
Rodrigues and C.S. Santosh showed ample amount of grit and skills to improve
upon their overnight positions.
Rodrigues also displayed exemplary
sportsmanship when he stopped twice to call in the medical evacuation
helicopter to the rescue of two crashed riders on the stage. Though, it
affected his rhythm, still the Portuguese rider completed the stage with a time
of 5 hour 37 minute 48 seconds that put him in 32th place for the day and 18th
in the provisional overall general classification.
After a forgettable third stage, Santosh had
his task cut out. The one hour time penalty for missing a waypoint had put him
way back down the starting order. It meant that he had to fight his way ahead
through the blinding dust kicked up by the riders ahead of him. The extremely
soft sandy sections in the first part of the special didn’t make things any
easier for him. Learning from his yesterday’s experience he held his ride
together with patience and persistence. Santosh completed the timed special in
6 hour 41 minute 43 seconds that put him in 71st place, which is a recovery of
33 places over his starting position of 104.
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