Just 24 secs covers Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah after Stage 9 on the Dakar
The longest stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally was held over treacherous terrain; punctures punctuated the proceedings for the competitors, only increasing the drama and action for the competitors as they wrestled to regain lost time.
The incredible three-way battle for the overall Cars category between Carlos Sainz (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team), Toyota Gazoo Racing's Nasser Al-Attiyah and 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team) has had the heat turned up considerably after today's 415km special stage on a route of 891km form Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh.
Sainz lost five minutes to his rivals with a small navigation error and a delaminating tyre, to see his overnight lead reduced to just 24s to Al Attiyah and 06m 38s to Peterhansel.
Matthieu Serradori (SRT Racing) and Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing) were first to start the stage, while Sainz started from a more favourable road position in 14th. Serradori, Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah attacked in the early parts of the day's stager, with Peterhansel taking the lead.
After 100km of racing, Sainz slowed due to his tyre problems and a navigational error, costing him five minutes. Seemingly detecting this, Al-Attiyah and Peterhansel put the hammer down to reach the halfway mark with a blistering speed. Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah were covered by just 52s, but with the last 100km remaining Al Attiyah closed to just four seconds to Peterhansel. The Frenchman kept his cool to claim the stage win, with Al Attiyah just 15s adrift.
That sees a big shake-up in the general classification: Sainz still holds the lead, but it is now 24s to Al-Attiyah and 6m 38s to Peterhansel.
“On the first part we lost a little bit of time when we lost the way – we lost five minutes or something like that,” Sainz said after the stage today. “After, I don't know what happened... the tread came off the tyre and we had to stop. It wasn't like a puncture, it was more the lamination of the tyre. It was not a good day for us.”
Al-Attiyah, now just 24s behind Sainz on the overall leader board!
“It was good because the buggy is fast,” said the Qatari. “We tried to do our best and today I think we did a really good stage. I’m quite happy to close the gap with Carlos.”
Interestingly, double Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing) sped to ninth fastest time on today's stage despite his 'road sweeping' duties. That means he has now reached 10th place overall in his Dakar debut.
After a day of not racing yesterday as a mark of respect to Paolo Goncalves, racing action resumed today for the Bikes. Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) claimed the stage's victory in the Bikes category with a nearly two-minute advantage over the chasing pack. The Chilean racer started the day 26min 48sec behind overall leader Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda Team 2020) with Jose Cornejo (Monster Energy Honda Team 2020) less than 20 seconds on his tail.
Brabec, as we've seen throughout this event thus far, doesn't like to wait about and he set an attacking pace from the start line to keep Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Team), Jose Barreda (Monster Energy Team 2020), and Quintanilla behind him. Such was the pace, Barreda fell. The terrain was punishing - pick the wrong line or stray off the trails and tracks, and the sharp rocks would bite through the tyres.
The American Brabec left nothing in his tank as he kept his throttle pinned and his lines sharp through the canyons; after the second checkpoint, he had stretched a lead of just over a minute to Price and Quintanilla. However, at the stage's halfway mark, Quintanilla had turned responded to Brabec's pace to jump to a slender five-second gap. In fact, behind Quintanilla and Brabec, Barreda and Price had closed too with this quartet covered by just 32s.
But Quintanilla did not relent with his pace thereafter, flying to the finish line to claim the victory. Brabec finished fourth today, conceding three minutes to Quintanilla on the overall leader board. Price has now overtaken Cornejo for third place overall. Quintanilla retains his second place overall, now 20m 53s adrift of Brabec.
In the Trucks category, the beasts swept through the Saudi Arabian desert today, with the fastest racer Andrey Karginov (Kamaz-Master) only 20m slower than Peterhansel's MINI Buggy...
Karginov claimed his fourth stage victory of the race, leading from start to finish. Siarhei Viazovich (MAZ-SportAuto) and Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz-Master) kept Karginov honest, but simply weren't able to maintain the pace of the Russian leader. Karginov's overall lead has grown to 38m over team-mate Anton Shibalov, and over one hour to third place Viazovich.
For Stage Ten, things don't get easier for competitors: travelling from Haradh to Shubaytah over 608km in total, they will race over 534 special stage kilometres.
General Classifications after Stage Eight
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): - 35h 11m 54s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) (Toyota Gazoo Racing): +0m 24s
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): +06m 38s
1. Ricky Brabec (USA) Monster Energy Honda Team 2020: - 31h 59m 29s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing: +20m 53s
3. Toby Price (AUS) Red Bull Racing Factory Team: +26m 53s
1. Andrey Karginov/AndreyMokeev/Igor Leonid (RUS) Kamaz,-Master: 38h 05m 25s
2. Anton Shibalov/Dmitrii Nikitin/Ivan Tatarinov (RUS) Kamaz-Master: +38m 35s
3. Siarhei Viazovich/ Pavel Haranin/Anton Zaparoshchanka (BLR) Maz-SportAuto: +1h 08m 36s