Stage 8: Audi's fortune is changing
The Dakar is slowly coming to a conclusion, but with a race of this complexity, it isn’t over until it is over. Conversations with the teams, drivers, and various interviews have given us valuable insight into just how demanding this year's edition has been. Drivers like Nasser Al-Attiyah have expressed just how taxing this year's stages have been on both his car and his spirit, with what appears to be yet another problem right around each corner.
Despite the brutally long repair on Mattias Ekström's Audi at the start of Stage 7, the Swedish driver expressed his embarrassment regarding the unpreparedness of his team and set out with a point to prove on the eighth stage. His determination drove him to a first-place finish in stage eight.
Carlos Sainz Sr. continues with his original objective in mind, stating that he will stick with the same strategy as day one: “complete each stage without big issues." This is paying off for the legend, as his fourth-place finish in Stage 8 pulls him another five minutes further ahead of Sebastien Loeb.
A mistake by Sebastien Loeb in the final 100 kilometres of the stage caused a missed waypoint and a turnaround, distancing the title further from the Frenchman. Still, he maintains his second-place overall position heading into the ninth stage.
On the local front, the South African pair of Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy sit quite comfortably in fifth overall, after another good ninth place in Stage 8. Guy David Botterill and Brett Cummings also maintain a spot in the top ten overall, with an 18th-place finish in the stage.
Saood Variawa appears to be finding his groove with a 19th-place finish in Stage 8. Despite his not-so-promising start to the Dakar, it appears that he quickly adapted to the gruelling Dakar. He is currently sitting 26th in the general rankings.
The results for Stage 8 are as follows:
- 207, Mattias Ekstrom, Team Audi Sport
- 202, Stephane Peterhansel, Team Audi Sport
- 211, Guerlain Chicherit, Overdrive Racing
- 204, Carlos Sainz, Team Audi Sport
- 216, Seth Quintero, Toyota Gazoo Racing
- 221, Guillaume De Mevius, Overdrive Racing
- 206, Lucas Moraes, Toyota Gazoo Racing
- 231, Romain Dumas, Rebellion Racing
- 209, Giniel de Villiers, Toyota Gazoo Racing
- 203, Sebastien Loeb, Bahrain Raid Xtreme
The closing stages of the Dakar spark a new drive in the competition. As finishing becomes a closer reality, cautious driving mixed with a drive for faster stage times could prompt exciting moments in the final legs. Audi's only hope for a Dakar win lies in the hands of Carlos Sainz, who continues with a comfortable lead at the front. Sebastien Loeb will try to hunt down the electric Audi in his hopes for a first Dakar win.
Stage 9 is the next challenge, with 639km of brutal sand ahead. It is turning out to be quite an eventful Dakar.