DAKAR 2015: RECAP: Victory for Nasser and Coma
A sixth fastest stage time was of little concern to Nasser Al-Attiyah as the Qatari added this year Dakar title to his first event victory in 2011. In control since stage two, only after having his fastest time on the opening stage scrapped due to speeding on a road section, the Mini driver eventually reached the finish line in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, 35 min ahead of South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers.
Following the demise of early leader Joan Barreda, reigning champion Marc Coma recovered from a slow start to notch up his fifth event victory, tying Cyril Despres and Cyril Neveu for overall Dakar victories on a motorbike
Touted by experts to be the toughest Dakar since the event re-located from Africa to South America in 2009, the car section started off in dramatic fashion when the Mini of title holder, Nani Roma, broke down 10 km into the stage, losing the Spaniard over six hours and dropping him to last place.
The X-Raid entered Mini team continued to dominate however with local hero Orlando Terranova finishing ahead de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk Zitzewits, a position the #303 Imperial Hilux was to be in for the rest of the event.
Returning since their last event in 1990, much was expected of former four times winner, Peugeot, and their brand new 2008 DKR with arguably the strongest driver line-up of double former World Rally Champion and 2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz, 11-times rally winner and the sport’s most successful competitor, Stefan Peterhansel, and Cyril Despres, having his first outing on four wheels.
The expected challenge however, never materialised with Sainz loosing over seven hours on stage four with turbo and engine issue while running fourth before rolling out on the next stage, Peterhansel suffering similar mechanicals problems to eventually cross the finish line in eleventh, and Despres struggling to get into a rhythm en-route to finishing in 34th position, 15 hours 38 min 07 sec behind winner Al-Attiyah.
Stage four would also prove to be Terranova’s undoing as the Argentine dropped out of contention with mechanical troubles. He would eventually complete the rally in 18th place, 7 hours 06 min 54 sec behind his teammate.
A two-horse race developed out front with de Villiers keeping the #301 Mini honest day-by-day with only eight minutes between them as the cars headed into the rest day after eight stages of hard motoring. The following leg was to be the South African’s undoing as a catastrophic navigational error dropped him 24 minutes behind.
The gap considerably winded over the remaining stages with a seventh place on stage 12, compared to Al-Attiyah’s first, sealing the Toyota’s drivers fate.
Running well behind the battle for victory, and in a back-up roll to his teammates, defending champion Roma showed what could have been by clocking some impressive times during the first week and even winning the first stage after the rest day. Like de Villiers though, the Spaniard also met his match on stage 10, rolling the #300 Mini to end a miserable defence of his title.
Roma’s misfortune was in contrast to that of teammate Krzysztof Holowczyc. A cautions but consistent event netted the Polish former World Rally driver his first Dakar podium in third, but only after the retirement of Yazeed Alrajhi.
In his first Dakar, the Saudi Arabian rookie shadowed de Villiers for the majority of the rally and even took his first stage victory on day eight. His impressive showing came to nothing when the electrics on his Toyota Hilux gave in before the start of stage 11.
Following a 33rd place finish last year, Dakar 2015 proved to be much more worthwhile for Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie in the second Imperial Toyota Hilux. Running as high as eleventh, an altercation with a ditch on stage three cost them over an hour, but a spirited fight back saw them finishing ahead of de Villiers / von Zitzewits on stage 10 and a career best second on the final stage to finish 16th overall, 6 hours 25 min 09 sec behind Al-Attiyah.
The remaining South African team of Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson might not have been the taking point of the event, but stayed out trouble to bring the #383 Nissan Navara home in 31st, 13 hours 57 min 16 sec behind the winner.
With his great rival Cyril Despres’ move to cars, defending motorcycle champion Marc Coma faced a new rival in the form of a rejuvenated Honda team with lead rider Joan Barreda. A slow start followed by tire troubles left the champion down in eighth place after the first two stages, over 12 min behind leader Barreda.
Despite the KTM rider slowly finding his rhythm and chipping away at his lead, Barreda took a 6 min lead going into the rest day, but tragedy was to strike on the marathon 450 km stage eight from Iquique to Calama.
Starting the stage on the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, the three works Hondas of Barreda, Paulo Goncalves and Jeremais Isreal were struck by engine problems made worse by the changing weather conditions. With four hours lost, Barreda’s hopes of a first Dakar win were all but destroyed with Goncalves now the sole challenger to new leader Coma.
His bid for victory over, Barreda continued to show impressive speed but the time lost proved to be impossible to recover with the Spaniard having to settle for 17th overall and 5 hours 54 min 35 sec behind Coma.
Barreda out, Goncalves was left to salvage the event for Honda but disaster again struck the Japanese team with the Portuguese rider forced to change his engine after stage 10, resulting in a 15 min penalty and eventual victory for Coma by 16 min 53 sec
A standout performance saw Australian Toby Price finishing his first Dakar in third place, capturing two stage wins along the way with another rookie, Pablo Quintanilla, coming home fourth ahead of Slovakian, Stefan Svitko.
In all, 67 cars, 79 bikes, 25 trucks (winner Airat Mardeev; Kamaz) and 25 quads (Rafael Sonik; Yamaha) finished 2015 Dakar Rally.
STAGE 13- OVERALL STANDINGS (CARS)
|1.||Nasser Al-Attiyah||Mathieu Baumel||QAT / FRA||Mini||40:32:25|
|2.||Giniel de Villiers||Dirk von Zitzewits||RSA / GER||Toyota||+00:35:34|
|3.||Krzysztof Holowczyc||Xavier Panseri||POL / FRA||Mini||+01:32:01|
|4.||Erik van Loon||Wouter Rosegaar||NLD / NLD||Mini||+03:01:52|
|5.||Vladimir Vasilyev||Konstantin Zhiltsov||RUS / RUS||Mini||+03:12|
|6.||Christian Lavieille||Pascal Maimon||FRA / FRA||Toyota||+03:15:28|
|7.||Bernhard ten Brinke||Tom Colsoul||NLD / BEL||Toyota||+03:42:02|
|8.||Carlos Sousa||Paulo Fiuza||POR / POR||Mitsubishi||+03:44:59|
|9.||Aidyan Rakhimbayev||Anton Nikolaev||KAZ / RUS||Mini||+04:08:44|
|10.||Ronan Chabot||Gilles Pillot||FRA / FRA||SMG||+04:42:36|
STAGE 13- OVERALL STANDINGS (BIKES)
CAPTION: Nasser Al-Attiyah (left) celebrates his second Dakar victory in the car section now five times motorcycle winner, Marc Coma (right). IMAGE sourced from best-of-rallylive.com
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