Dakar Rally Stage 7 - San Juan de Marcona & Back
The first loop of stage 7 of the 2019 Dakar Rally had plenty of competitors going around in circles as they tried to find their way back to the bivouac in San Juan de Marcona. With over 300 kilometers of desert racing against the clock there were further fluctuations in the leaderboards by the time the dust had settled.
Getting the job done on stage seven was 13-time Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel (FRA) and his co-driver David Castera (FRA). Peterhansel went into today’s stage trailing race leader Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) by over 40 minutes – there was no option but attack. A stage win, clawing back close to 12 minutes on Al-Attiyah and moving to second overall represents a good day at the office for Peterhansel.
“We got a bit closer to Nasser, but it'll be very hard to wrestle the lead from him.” – Stephane Peterhansel
It was also one of the better days at the 2019 Dakar for Peterhansel’s companions in the X-raid MINI JCW Team. Carlos Sainz (ESP) collected his second consecutive third place on the stage while Cyril Despres (FRA) was in the Top 5 once again.
Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) are now just three stages away from Lima and giving Toyota Gazoo Racing their first Dakar title. They are benefitting from the support of team-mate Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) who is staying as close as possible to Al-Attiyah’s Hilux in case he can offer assistance on the stage.
“We got a puncture on the way home and had a battle finding a few waypoints. But all in all, not too bad. A nice run today.” – Giniel de Villiers
It was a tough stage for Sébastien Loeb (FRA) who was hunting a fourth stage win of this Dakar. The Frenchman lost 40 minutes due to an electrical issue in the first few kilometers. However, when Loeb got going again he was able to show his customary speed and eventually conceded less than half an hour to Peterhansel.
"It's quite demoralizing, we'll see what we can do and what we can fight for in the coming days.” – Sebastien Loeb
After running into trouble on stage six, Sam Sunderland (GBR) bounced back in the best possible way and won today’s stage. The 2017 Dakar winner capitalized on an advantageous starting position to come through the pack with stage seven’s quickest time.
“I started out today with the intention to push a lot.” – Sam Sunderland
Sunderland led home his fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders as they chase down an 18th consecutive Dakar title for the manufacturer. Luciano Benavides (ARG) was Sunderland’s closest team-mate with fifth place on today’s stage taking him to 11th overall.
“I’m happy with the job I did and it’s one more step towards Lima.” – Luciano Benavides
In the general classification Toby Price (AUS) is third, 6m55s behind race leader Ricky Brabec (USA). Sunderland is fourth, less than 10 minutes behind Brabec while defending bike race champion Matthias Walkner (AUT) is a further six minutes back.
“The last days at the Dakar are always very difficult.” – Matthias Walkner
A spectacular stage win by Chaleco Lopez (CHI) has set-up a great battle for Dakar glory in the SxS/UTV class. Lopez now trails race leader and defending champion Reinaldo Varela (BRA) by just four minutes with three stages remaining.
“We now just have three days left and everyday will be full gas.” – Chaleco Lopez
It was a bittersweet stage for truck race leader Eduard Nikolaev (RUS). The Team Kamaz Master trucker increased his lead at the front of the rally after misfortune beset his closest rival, and team-mate, Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS). Nikolaev now holds an advantage of over 30 minutes from Sotnikov.
We’re getting down to the business end of things now and potential winners are starting to emerge. It’s time to shake things up!
Following the stage seven rankings, the best 10 bikes, 10 cars and five trucks will start at the same time on stage eight. This is sure to generate plenty of exciting wheel-to-wheel racing.
Quote of the day
Stephane Peterhansel: "At the beginning, we jumped over a dune, which damaged the bonnet and left us with bad whiplash. Navigating was tricky, but I think we did well because we gained time on everyone. We got a bit closer to Nasser, but it'll be very hard to wrest the lead from him. Actually, we don't deserve to be ahead of him because he's doing really well and has made no mistakes so far."
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