Stage nine of the Dakar Rally has been called off after a massive landslide on the course.
The landslide struck on Tuesday, hitting the village of Volcan, following massive thunderstorms some 160 kilometres away from Salta on the road used to get to the overnight bivouac. It has caused the road to be cut off, which has therefore led to the second stage cancellation of this year’s race.
In a statement, event organisers ASO said: “According to the Argentinian civil security, victims are deplored in the population and considerable damage has been observed.
“As the road is cut off, most of the vehicles, competitors, assistance and logistics from the Dakar caravan were diverted on an alternative route through San Antonio de los Cobres, extending the distance of the liaison by about 200 km. They will not be able to reach the Salta bivouac in time to start the race.”
Already stage six was axed following heavy rain while stages five and eight had to be shortened, and the route was altered for stage seven. Instead, today organisers are bidding to ensure the 10th stage from Chilecito and San Juan will still go ahead. Stage nine was in some ways the queen stage of this year’s Dakar, its longest at a gargantuan 977 kilometres with much of it off-road.
Sebastien Loeb currently leads the car standings, with Sam Sunderland at the top of the motorcycle time sheets.
Sam Sunderland #14: “The organisers had made a nice stage today, and we’re racers so we want to race. But at the same time, in a situation like what has happened, the racing comes second. My thoughts are with the people, I don’t know the full details but I don’t think it’s so great. The result of this race will not be decided until the last kilometre. I’ll try and continue the way I have been and hopefully it all goes well. Even with the cancelled stages, it’s still been really hard. Really difficult navigation, physical riding – and not plain sailing on big wide open pieces, it’s been really technical.”
Sébastien Loeb #309: “When you see the difference between Stéphane (Perterhansel) and myself, it’s nothing – the strategy will be to attack and try to go fast. Tomorrow will not be an easy day, for sure, with a lot of navigation and us first on the road. We’ll try our best. At the moment I don’t think so much about it but I realise it’s only three days left, and tomorrow will be an important one – maybe a bit more tension for tomorrow. It’s a lot of offroad tomorrow so it will be difficult and we’ll have to go fast. It won’t be easy.”
Dmitry Sotnikov #513: “It has been a fast race so far with lots of navigation to pay attention to. It was good to get into the lead on Stage Eight because it showed we had done a good marathon stage. I did not celebrate though because I felt bad for my team-mate Ayrat (Mardeev) who lost time stuck in the sand. It showed the great team spirit we have when Anton (Shibalov) stopped to help the crew get moving again. Now there are more difficult stages to come and the final result is yet to be decided. We have a good atmosphere in the cab and we’re hoping to maintain that until the end.”