Dakar Week 1 round up: Peugeot and Loeb in control

BY CHARL BOSCH - JANUARY 11, 2016

Nine times World Rally Championship (WRC) champion Sebastien Loeb cemented his and Peugeot’s dominance of this year’s event, by leading teammates Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz in a lockout of the first three places heading into the final week.

After a disappointing return to the Dakar threshold last year with their two-wheel drive 2008 DKR buggy, the French team, winners of the event from 1987-1990, remained unbeaten throughout the first six stages with debutant Loeb making an immediate impression taking three stage victories compared to Peterhansel’s two and Sainz’ one.

It has however proved to be a mixed event so far for the fourth works Peugeot of former five-time motorcycle winner Cyril Despres, with the Frenchman dropping out of the ten on stage five through mechanical problems. A sixth place finish on stage seven from Uyuni in Bolivia to the rest day stopover in Salta, Argentina, has left in 14th place overall, well over an hour behind teammate Loeb.

Similarly, the first half has been a frustration for defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah with the Qatari languishing down in fourth place some 17 min behind Sainz in his four-wheel drive X-Raid entered Mini. Seemingly unable to match the speed and pace of the Peugeots, a third fastest time on stage seven remains his highest of the event.

Sitting fourth in the overall standings, 32 min behind former WRC archival Loeb, Mini debutant Mikko Hirvonen has experienced a constant if not spectacular run with the Finn finishing well inside the top on five out of the six stages completed so far.

Compared to the turbocharged Minis and Peugeots, the finial three stage of the first week had been a bitter pill to swallow for the Gazoo Team South Africa entered Toyota Hilux pairings of 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers / Dirk von Zitzewitz, and Leeroy Poulter / Rob Howie.

While able to challenge on the first few stages, the high altitudes of Bolivia soon left the normally aspirated Lexus V8 powered Toyotas at a disadvantage with de Villiers loosing over eight min on stage four and another 15 on stage six.

Upstaged slightly by his teammate’s showing in the latter stages, the loss of time has seen de Villiers running down in sixth place, seven minutes ahead of Poulter but 33 down on Loeb.

Having scored victory on the prologue and running consistently in the top ten, the event took a turn for the worst for Dutchman Berharnd ten Brinke, when worn tyres combined with the searing hot conditions, resulted in his South African-built Overdrive run Toyota Hilux going up in flames on stage six.

His departure has left Vladimir Vasilyev as the sole Overdrive Toyota representative in the top ten, with the Russian involved in a battle for eighth and ninth with the third Gazoo Team SA Hilux of Yazeed Alrajhi. In an impressive showing, Argentinian Emil Spataro rounds the top ten in his South African-built Renault Duster.

In stark constant to the cars, the battle in the motorcycle section has seen drama right from the get go with matters boiling over two stages before the rest day.

With defending champion Marc Coma taking-up the positon of route director this year, the event has been a see-saw battle between KTM mounted Toby Price, Husqvarna team leader Ruben Faria and Honda’s Paulo Goncalves.

Initially appearing to go Price’s way, the Australian dropped over seven minutes on stage three with navigational errors, briefly handing the lead to Slovakian Stefan Svitko. The KTM privateer however dropped back on the following stage with Goncalves and teammate Joan Barreda taking up the reins at the front.

That however did not last long with the Portuguese rider being slapped with a number of speeding penalties before finishing stage five on a tow rope with a broken engine. The following stage then saw the end of Faria after a heavy fall broke his collarbone.

A fall then befell Austrian Matthias Walkner on the very next stage as Goncalves continued extending his lead over a hard charging Price.

With the departures of Barreda and Faria, Svitko finds himself ending the first week third overall ahead of the remaining Husqvarna of Pablo Quintanilla, while Argentine sensation Kevin Benavides rounds out the top five.

French motocross champion and Dakar debutant Antoine Meo continues his impressive run in sixth, three minutes in front of the leading Yamaha of Helder Rodrigues, with KTM’s Gerard Farres and Sherco teammates Alain Duclos and Juan Pedrero completing the top ten.

Today’s stage eight sees competitors tackling a 534 km special from Salta to Belen.

 

WEEK ONE - OVERALL STANDINGS (CARS)

POSITION DRIVER CO-DRIVER NATIONALITY MAKE TIME
1. Sebastien Loeb Daniel Elena FRA / MON Peugeot 21:46:28
2. Stephane Peterhansel Jean-Paul Cottret FRA / FRA Peugeot +00:02:22
3. Carlos Sainz Lucas Cruz ESP / ESP Peugeot +00:04:50
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah Matthieu Baumel QAT / FRA Mini +00:17:36
5. Mikko Hirvonen Michel Perin FIN / FRA Mini +00:32:53
6. Giniel de Villiers Dirk von Zitzewitz RSA / GER Toyota +00:33:41
7. Leeroy Poulter Rob Howie RSA / RSA Toyota +00:40:19
8. Yazeed Alrajhi Timo Gottschalk SAU / GER Toyota +00:42:15
9. Vladimir Vasilyev Konstantin Zhiltsov RUS / RUS Toyota +00:53:46
10. Emil Spataro Benjamin Lozada ARG / ARG Renault +01:15:45

 

WEEK ONE - OVERALL STANDINGS (BIKES)

POSITION RIDER NATIONALITY MAKE TIME
1. Paulo Goncalves POR Honda 22:52:30
2. Toby Price AUS KTM +00:03:12
3. Stefan Svitko SVK KTM +00:09:24
4. Pablo Quintanilla CHL Husqvarna +00:18:06
5. Kevin Benavides ARG Honda +00:21:01
6. Antoine Meo FRA KTM +00:21:06
7. Helder Rodrigues PRT Yamaha +00:26:44
8. Gerard Farres ESP KTM +00:29:57
9. Alain Duclos FRA Sherco +00:30:22
10. Juan Pedrero ESP Sherco +00:31:45

 

IMAGE sourced from abc.com.py