Dakar 2015: report stage 7 (bikes) and 8 (cars)

dakar_2015_report8-1After a rest day in Iquique, the bikes and quads continued their adventure in Dakar 2015, running the 7th stage of the rally to Bolivia. As for the cars and trucks, they did their different 8th stage – return from Bolivia for the cars, and another loop near Iquique for the trucks.

Yazeed Al-Rajhi has been impressive since the start of Dakar 2015, his maiden one, but he had to wait until the eighth stage to claim his first win in the toughest rally raid in the world. This prestigious triumph confirms the talent of the Saudi driver, still very much in the running for overall glory.

Al-Rajhi, who won Pharaons Rally of Egypt ahead of current leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, is not an unfamiliar name among fans of the sport. However, the Saudi tackled the challenge of his maiden Dakar humbly, with his sights set on a top 10 finish. What is for sure is that he did not expect to claim his first win at the end of the first stage of the prestigious stage through the jaw-dropping Salar de Uyuni. Al-Rajhi has become more than just a new Dakar stage winner, taking on a new dimension today by moving up to within 18 minutes of Al-Attiyah in the general classification of Dakar 2015 and keeping his chances open to win the Dakar in his first attempt.

He also netted Toyota its first win this year, an honor that seemed to have Giniel de Villiers’ name on it after he outperformed the rest of the field in the first 746 km of today’s special. However, the South African lost a few precious minutes on the last dunes before Iquique and conceded a few more seconds to Al-Attiyah. Orlando Terranova, no longer concerned about the general classification, followed up on yesterday’s victory with a second place in today’s stage, 1′12″ behind the winner. Krzysztof Hołowczyc lost 3′12″ but capitalised on Bernhard ten Brinke’s bad day at the office to consolidate his hold on fourth place overall.

dakar_2015_report8-2Meanwhile, in the truck category, with five stages out of eight under his belt, Eduard Nikolaev and his Kamaz were once again head and shoulders above the rest in Iquique. His fifth win came with the added bonus of putting over eleven minutes into Gerard de Rooy on the finish line, pushing the Russian driver up to third overall in Dakar 2015 behind teammates Ayrat Mardeev and Andrey Karginov and piling the pressure on them.

Paulo Gonçalves has been extremely consistent from the start, but he knows he also needs to win if he is to triumph in Buenos Aires. It was mission accomplished for him on Sunday as he claimed his second Dakar win in the stage from Iquique to Uyuni and stayed in contention for the overall win of Dakar 2015.

The ambitious Paulo Gonçalves spent the first week waiting to jump on any opening left by the Joan Barreda/Marc Coma leading duo. However, the Portuguese rider stepped right into the fray on the way to Salar de Uyuni, taking his first win in 2015 by a wafer-thin margin of 14 seconds over Marc Coma and moving up to ten minutes behind overall leader Barreda. The first part of the marathon stage did not go according to plan for the leader of the Honda clan, who took a tumble 200 km into the special and smashed his handlebar.

The Spaniard rode heroically with one hand for 120 km, but saw his lead in the general classification of Dakar 2015 halved. He will have to repair the motorcycle alone this evening and hope one of his teammates can give him a spare handlebar. Matthias Walkner had a much better day at the office, finishing third half a minute behind the leader and ahead of Pablo Quintanilla and Toby Price, confirming the rise of the new generation. Michael Metge, on the other hand, fell and lost 39 minutes.

Nelson Augusto Sanabria, who finished his maiden Dakar in twelfth place in 2014, was sitting pretty in seventh at the start of today’s stage in Iquique. The Paraguayan was already delighted with that, but he was over the moon this evening after taking his first win in Uyuni. 5′46″ back, Rafał Sonik padded his overall lead over Ignacio Casale, who opened his suitcase of courage to finish 11′37″ down with an injured leg.

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