Defending champion Nani Roma led a Mini 1-2-3 in the Dakar Rally ninth stage on Tuesday as Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah increased his overall lead after “a terrible mistake” by main rival Giniel de Villiers.
Spain’s Roma — whose hopes of a second straight overall win evaporated on the first stage because of electrical failure — completed the 538 kilometre (450km timed) drive from the Chilean Pacific coastal city of Iquique to Calama in the Andes six-and-a-half minutes clear of Al-Attiyah.
The 2011 Dakar winner’s bold showing bolstered his bid for a second title. He now has a near 24-minute cushion over Toyota’s South African driver de Villiers, who was kicking himself after losing his way, eventually taking fourth.
De Villiers blamed “a terrible, terrible navigation mistake” on his unscheduled and unwanted driveabout in the Chilean countryside. “That’s cost us the race,” he lamented.
“You know, sometimes it goes like this in the Dakar and there’s nothing you can do about it. “It’s not impossible for Nasser to make a mistake, but with the lead he has now he can take it really easy.” With four days to come before Saturday’s finish in Buenos Aires Al-Attiyah can now start to realistically contemplate his second title.
“It was not easy, but, ok, I think we made a good job of it and I hope it will be enough to win the Dakar,” said the driver who has represented Qatar in shooting at the Olympics.
“I think we did a good job and to finish here in front of Giniel is the key.” In third in the drivers standings comes Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi in another Toyota, 40 minutes behind Al-Attiyah.
Mini’s domination of Tuesday’s podium was completed by Russian Vladimir Vasilyev.
In the bikes section, Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues claimed his second stage win of 2015 as Marc Coma had his overall lead cut by three minutes.
Rodrigues crossed the finish line in the Andes almost four minutes clear of his teammate and fellow countryman Paul Goncalves. In third came Coma, whose advantage over Goncalves in the riders’ title race is now only five-and-a half minutes.
In third in the overall standings is Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla — who won Monday’s marathon stage on home turf — almost half an hour adrift of the front pair.
Joan Barreda, who saw his Dakar rally dream go up in smoke with engine trouble in the eighth stage, lost a further 20 minutes overall.
For Rodrigues, this was a welcome change of fortune after the winner of the sixth stage lost more than three hours on a disastrous journey to Iquique 24 hours earlier which knocked him out of title contention.
“Yesterday (Monday) was very hard for us and today was just fun and the aim was to just get to the finish. The stage was very hard but compared to yesterday it was nothing,” he said.
As for Coma, victory in Buenos Aires on Saturday is still a long way away.
“At the moment, everything is still far off, so we’re looking at the next day only and we will see. There’s a long way still in front of us, so we’ll take it step by step,” said the Spaniard.
Goncalves was always playing a cautious game, commenting: “Now I’m second overall, but this is not really important because we have four days more in front of us to race. The strategy is to try and keep the bike safe, only that.” Thursday’s 10th stage is a 358km timed run from Calam across the Argentine border to Salta.
Collated results after the Dakar Rally ninth stage, a 538 kilometre (450km timed) circuit between Iquique and Calama on Tuesday:
1. Nani Roma/Michel Perin (ESP/FRA/Mini) 4hr 41min 56sec
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Mini) at 6min 27sec
3. Vladimir Vasilyev/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS/Mini) 15:52
4. Giniel De Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) 21:58
5. Yazeed Alrajhi/Timo Göttschalk (KSA/GER/Toyota) 27:16
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (POL/FRA/Mini) 29:30
7. Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue (ARG/ARG/Mini) 30:34
8. Robby Gordon/Johnny Campbell (USA/USA/Gordini) 35:59
9. Erik Van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar (NED/NED/Mini) 42:22
10. Cyril Despres/Gilles Picard (FRA/FRA/Peugeot) 45:22
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Mini) 31hr 29:38 (penality: 2:00)
2. Giniel De Villiers/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (RSA/GER/Toyota) at 23min 58sec
3. Yazeed Alrajhi/Timo Göttschalk (KSA/GER/Toyota) 39:29,
4. Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (POL/FRA/Mini) 1hr 17:41
5. Erik Van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar (NED/NED/Mini) 2hr 01:46
6. Christian Lavieille/Pascal Maimon (FRA/FRA/Toyota) 2hr 51:39
7. Carlos Sousa/Paulo Fiuza (POR/POR/Mitsubishi) 2hr 53:35
8. Vladimir Vasilyev/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS/RUS/Mini) 3hr 02:41
9. Aidyn Rakhimbayev/Anton Nikolaev (KAZ/RUS/Mini) 3hr 41:24, (penality: 30)
10. Boris Garafulic/Filipe Palmeiro (CHI/POR/Mini) 4hr 14:39