2023 Dakar Rally: Stage 8 & 9 highlights
Quick Facts: Al Duwadimi > Riyadh – 700 km in total
398 km Special 302 km Liaison
The last push before the rest day, and the only thing that's for sure is that uncertainly awaits. Such is Dakar and the reason why everyone comes back. That's competition in motorsport for you. The liaison part of the stage back to Riyadh would be shifted to the end, and the special would start with gravel tracks and end with giant dunes. The entire stage needed to be shortened thanks to the earlier curve ball the weather had thrown. To think the desert doesn't stay dry...
Carlos Sainz was determined as ever, setting out and achieving the day's quickest time. Unfortunately, El Matador had to relinquish the victory thanks to a time penalty incurred, meaning he would finish in P3 for the day. Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel played it smoothly, finishing in P2 for the day, playing the experience game well, and not making any mistakes. The same can't be said for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter of Sébastian Loeb and Fabian Lurquin, who have been charging ahead, determined to turn their earlier spate of bad luck around. Loeb won the stage, making it 18 stage wins in his Dakar history.
Trailing behind were Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings, who were fighting it out with Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza in an epic high-speed desert duel. Lategan and Cummings came out on top in P4 and improved his overall position of P2 in the rally, 1 hour behind Al-Attiyah. Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy only managed P21, putting their hopes of a P3 overall at risk, while Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer would finish one place ahead of them. It would now be time to rest, lick the wounds and ready oneself for the second half of the Dakar.
Stage 9 – A day of despair for Audi
Quick Facts: Riyadh > Haradh – 686 km in total
358 km Special 328 km Liaison
Time for the first stage after ample rest. Competitors should be feeling recharged to get out and salvage the next leg of Dakar. The stage's opening sections consisted mainly of wadis (Arabic for 'valley') and canyons, ending with a sweeping complex of dunes before it's back to the bivouac… The empty quarter awaits.
The cars were off, and the first casualty of the day belonged to Carlos Sainz, who, just after 6 kilometres, jumped a dune in a strange accident that saw him airlifted before he asked the medical helicopter to turn around so that he could attempt to finish the stage and stay in the rally. They got the car back to the bivouac.
Further drama for P2 overall Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings, who, after 18 km, came to a halt with a failed rear left suspension system. In a show of sportsmanship and team spirit, fellow Toyota team Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dirk Von Zitzewitz, who were out of the overall contention by that point and who, stripped the damper out of their car to fit on Henk and Brett's car so that they could finish the stage. They eventually plunged into P63, putting their P2 overall at risk, losing 50 minutes. But they're still in it…
Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza turned their previous stage loss into a win, securing P2 in their Prodrive Hunter. It would be a day for Prodrive, with Sébastian Loeb and Fabian Lurquin winning another stage and Guerlain Chicherit and Alex Winocq completing the podium with P3. Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, who started the stage for the cars, would finish P8 behind Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy. Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer would finish in P11.
Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings remain in the hunt, even though they lost two places in the overall standings, while Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy stay in contention for a podium.
Words: Brett vd Schyff