There was a pause in proceedings at the 2018 Dakar Rally as Stage 9 fell victim to torrential rain in Bolivia. Instead of racing against the clock to Salta, drivers and riders travelled on the assistance route.
Now the race has arrived in Argentina where it will conclude after five more days of competition. Racing will resume with Stage 10 (373km) from Salta to Belén Tuesday.
Team Peugeot Total driver Carlos Sainz is in pole position to regain the Dakar title he won in 2010. Sainz still holds a healthy advantage over the chasing pack, despite being hit with a 10-minute penalty for an incident involving a quad biker.
Sainz said: “I’m not happy about the time penalty because I do not think it reflects the reality of the situation. What happened was that I acted fast to avoid an accident.”
Behind Sainz there’s a four-way battle for the remaining two podium spots. Nasser Al-Attiyah is second overall, 1h06m37s behind Sainz. Then it’s Sainz’s Peugeot teammate Stéphane Peterhansel in third, seven minutes off Al-Attiyah.
Then come Al-Attiyah’s Toyota Gazoo Racing SA teammates Berhard Ten Brinke and Giniel De Villiers who are fourth and fifth overall and within striking distance of the podium.
With five stages remaining the top six bikers are locked together with Adrien Van Beveren in first, just 22 seconds ahead of second place Kevin Benavides. Then Matthias Walkner in third is 6m34s off the lead with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Toby Price a further minute back.
Joan Barreda is fifth overall, eight minutes behind Van Beveren and less than two minutes ahead of KTM rider Antoine Méo in sixth.
Price said: “I’m looking forward to racing in Argentina because in previous years it has served up some difficult stages. There’s still a very long way to go.”
Ignacio Casale could make history by holding the lead in his category from beginning to end. Since winning the opening stage the Chilean has maintained top spot and is currently 1h45m20s clear of his nearest rival.
Team Kamaz Master are on course for their eight victory since the Dakar moved to the South American continent 10 years ago. Leading the charge for the Russian truckers is Eduard Nikolaev who holds first place by over 45 minutes.
What will be reassuring for Nikolaev ahead of the remaining stages is having teammates Dmitry Sotnikov, Ayrat Mardeev and Anton Shibalov all in close attendance should he need their assistance at any point.
Nikolaev said: “The most important thing is that our truck is in good condition and the crew is OK. It is clear that a lot of fight is ahead.”
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