The Rally Dakar 2017 Stage 7 left La Paz (Bolivia), the highest
capital city in the world and headed towards another world renowned venue, the
Salar d’Uyuni salt flats. On the road to Uyuni, Ricky Brabec of Monster Energy
Honda Team won his first special on the
Dakar at the end of a 161 kilometre sprint ridden at a devilish pace. In the
car race, Stéphane Peterhansel of Peugeot did justice to his rank of general
standings leader thanks to a narrow victory over his team-mate Sébastien Loeb.
It may be recalled that Stage
6 (January 7, 2017) and the following day on Sunday it was a rest day. In Stage
7, the riders and drivers were back in action on a modified 161 kilometre
special route, the first half of this year’s marathon stage. Due to the
persistent bad weather, a new course mainly taking place on sandy terrain was
designed from Bolivian capital La Paz to Uyuni with the competitors separated
from their mechanics and having to repair their vehicles alone for the first
One week ago when the race
started , 318 vehicles took part int he rally. Now only 110 bikes, 25 quads, 72
cars and 48 trucks remain and are still trying to make it to the finish line.
In Stage 7, Ricky Brabec, the
official Honda rider was finally rewarded for his efforts and paid back the
trust shown to him, ahead of his experienced team-mate Paulo Gonçalves. In
third, Sam Sunderland of Red Bull KTM Factory Team did all that was necessary
to limit the damage and even increased his lead in the general standings over
Pablo Quintanilla of Monster Energy Honda Team.
In the quad category, Sergey
Karyakin of Yamaha finally picked up his first victory of the year after having
finished in the top seven during four of the first five stages. Consequently,
the Russian takes the lead in the general standings, ahead of the Frenchmen
Simon Vitse and Axel Dutrie (both Yamaha).
In the car race, Stéphane
Peterhansel picked up his second stage victory since the start in Asuncion,
equalling Sébastien Loeb’s tally this year. Once again, on completion of a
superb duel between the two men, Peterhansel made the difference, by 48
seconds. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) and Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) had to content
themselves with maintaining their positions, whilst Nani Roma (Toyota) leapfrogged
Cyril Despres (Peugeot) to take provisional third place in the general
standings. As for the trucks, it is now the turn of Dimitry Sotnikov behind the
wheel of his Kamaz to put pressure on Gerard de Rooy, with a first stage
victory in 2017, enabling him to climb to within two minutes of the Dutchman’s
Iveco in the general standings. The rerouted seventh stage of the 2017 Dakar
was just 141 kilometres long for the trucks.
At the age of 31 years old,
Todd Smith is taking part in his first Dakar behind the handlebars of a non-official
KTM bike. The Australian undoubtedly did not expect to be in with a shout so
early on, especially on a Dakar rally that has tripped up many of the
favourites. However, with every special he completes, Smith seems to be more
and more comfortable, as he showed today with a magnificent seventh place. He
is unquestionably a rider to watch, up to Buenos Aires and in the years to come.
Mikko Hirvonen finished fourth
on this marathon stage, a performance that helped him maintain his position.
However, with a puncture 8 kilometres from the finish when he hit a rock on
exiting a river bed, the Finn did not make his job any easier and is set for a
long evening of repairs. The Mini driver finished the stage on his wheel rim
and will have to rely on the generosity of his team-mates to get as many spare
wheels as he can for tomorrow, since any assistance is forbidden before
tackling the Salar d’Uyuni salt flats.
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