Despite a recurrence of their earlier power steering problems on Tuesday’s stage nine, privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) defended their impressive top 25 position in the Dakar Rally after finishing 48th on a difficult 422-kilometre racing section between Calama and Iquique in Chile.
Some 160 kilometres into the stage, which featured the first serious sand dunes of the race in the Atacama Desert and a dramatic three-kilometre descent of giant dunes to the Pacific Ocean-side bivouac outside the coastal city of Iquique, the Dakar rookies were forced to stop when the power steering pump failed. They lost 3h 45m before they could get going again after fellow South Africans Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in a Toyota Motorsport Hilux stopped to offer them their spare pump.
“We had another clean run today apart from the power steering problem and are happy to still be in the top 25 at this stage of the race,” said Rundle.
The stage was won by defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a Mini. Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz were second (2m 17s), Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France in a Mini were third (+11m 36s), fourth were Argentine Orlando Terranova and Portuguese co-driver Paulo Fiuza of Portugal in another Mini (+14m 14s) and fifth were South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz in the latest version of Rundle’s ex-Toyota Motorsport Hilux (+22m 57s).
Nani Roma of Spain and Michel Perin of France (Mini) are the overall leaders with four stages remaining. Second are Peterhansel/Cottret (+12m 10s), followed by Orlando Terranova of Argentina and Paulo Fiuza of Portugal (Mini) +54m 33s, Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz (Mini) +59m 46s and de Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (+59m 46s).
Stage 10, down the west coast of Chile from Iquique to Antofagasta, is split into two sections with very different features. The 631-kilometre racing section will begin with the descent towards the shores of the Pacific after a short 53-kilometre liaison stage. There will be sand for the first 200 kilometres and fesh-fesh in the second part of the stage. From there to the finish the route twists and winds along the region’s mine tracks until the competitors are welcomed by the majestic arch of La Portuda, a stone’s throw from the overnight bivouac.