Red Bull: The Dakar faces the elements!

Sébastien Loeb © DR

Competitors at the 2017 Dakar Rally spent last night separated from their crews due to the rules of the marathon stage. When the time came to hit the road bright and early this morning the racers and their machines were then pushed to the absolute limit.


A slippery start to Stage Eight saw the shootout between fellow Team Peugeot Total drivers Stéphane Perterhansel (FRA) and Sébastien Loeb (FRA) get underway once more. A sustained attack by Loeb over both parts of the timed special stage saw him emerge with the day’s quickest time. The WRC legend’s third stage win of this Dakar propelled him into the overall race lead as he leapfrogged Perterhansel in the general classification.

Underlining the dominance of the Peugeot 3008 DKR was Cyril Despres (FRA) who joined his team-mates on the Stage Eight podium. The result ensures the French marque holds a 1-2-3 in the overall rankings as the race returns to Argentina.

We also have a new leader in the truck race following today’s dramatic action as Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) helped Team Kamaz Master to finally wrestle top spot from defending champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD). Sotnikov’s Kamaz team-mate Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) was also boosted up the rankings with a third place on the stage to lie second overall.

Successfully holding onto his lead today was Sam Sunderland (GBR) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team thanks to a solid performance on the stage which saw him bag the third quickest time. Sunderland’s team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) also completed a fine marathon stage and was rewarded with a climb up the rankings to fourth overall.

Ignacio Casale (CHL) had targeted the second part of the marathon stage to make his mark on proceedings in the quad race and duly delivered the quickest time of the category. The stage win saw Casale take over five minutes out of race leader Sergey Karyakin’s (RUS) advantage over him. With four Dakar days remaining the Chilean is a little over ten minutes behind Karyakin in third overall.

With the latest extreme weather to hit the Dakar causing today’s racing to be trimmed by 73km we were hoping that tomorrow’s Super Belén stage would go ahead without any alterations needed. However, the worse flooding in 40 years to hit a region of the province of Jujuy in northern Argentina has caused massive landslides and brought roads in the area to a standstill. Dakar organisers have therefore taken the decision to cancel Stage Nine and resume the race on Thursday from Chilecito.

Sébastien Loeb #309: “I tried really hard, because today was a stage like the ones I like, with some fast roads. I wanted to try to make a gap today, but finally I had a puncture on the last part of the stage, so I lost a few minutes to change the wheel, but, it’s ok – it’s still the best time. It’s not bad and we are still in the fight.”

Stéphane Perterhansel #300: “Again it was a nice stage. At the beginning there was more navigation with some dunes, but the last 300 kilometres was really like a WRC racing track. To fight with Sébastien (Loeb) in these conditions is not easy. We lost a few minutes, but not too much. We’re still in contact overall. It was really fun to drive today. In motorsport there are sometimes team orders… We never know, but I prefer to fight to the end of the race.”

Sam Sunderland #14: “This morning it was really, really wet and really difficult to pass in some places. I stopped a few times to change my goggles and change my gloves and silly things, just because it was too much. I couldn’t see the roadbook. I couldn’t see where I was going. I figured it would be better to stop and change my goggles and then carry on, rather than trying to push when you can’t see. The second part was going good, but then it was a bit frustrating. I was crossing a river full of stones and I managed to clip the rear disk and bent the disk, so for the last 100 kilometres I had no rear brake which makes things a little bit interesting on a surface like this, a kind of WRC-style hard-pack that was really slippery. Everybody is going to have problems at some point and I think it’s how you manage them, how you can stay safe and try to not lose such big, big amounts of time. I think you win it on the bad days, not on the good days.”

Ignacio Casale #251: “It was a good day, especially for the end of a marathon stage. I rode at a good pace and I was very comfortable with the quad. I think I’ve rode a good stage because I’ve gained a lot of time on the riders who were in front of me. This year, I’ve been following a more cautious strategy to ensure I got to the rest day. As a result, my quad is in good condition for the last part of the race. I’m feeling confident. If you’re not confident, you have no hope of winning…”.

Christina Gaither – Red Bull,