Another day and another 523 kilometres of racing against the clock at the 2018 Dakar Rally. Even the fastest competitors in the car and truck divisions at the world’s toughest race were on the road for close to 12 hours on stage 12. Could anyone use this full day of Dakar competition to make their mark on the leaderboard?
Car race leader Carlos Sainz (ESP) awoke on Thursday to some welcome news as Dakar stewards decided to cancel the 10-minute penalty they had given him on Monday due to an incident with a quad biker. This increased the 2010 Dakar Rally champion’s overall lead to over an hour before the cars set off from Chilecito to San Juan.
With an ample cushion at the front of the race Sainz was able to drive a tactically astute stage which saw him concede only 16 minutes to his nearest competitor and team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA).
We had a puncture and then we had some gearbox problems, but everything is fine because we’ve finished the stage which is the important thing. We were stuck in third gear at the end of the stage. Carlos Sainz
The stage win went to Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) as he duked it out with Peterhansel throughout the 523 kilometres of timed special stage. The victory moves Al-Attiyah two minutes closer to Peterhansel in second overall and helps put the Qatari one step closer to his 6th podium finish at the Dakar.
On the second part we tried to push, but just to keep third place overall. We finished today with two flat tyres. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Al-Attiyah’s Toyota team-mate Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) and MINI driver Kuba Przygonski (POL) were able to consolidate their overall position of 5th and 6th respectively. Meanwhile, the third Peugeot driver Cyril Despres (FRA) accompanied Sainz in a solid display of teamwork.
We’re just going to try and drive the next two days cleanly, as quick as possible and we’ll see what happens. Giniel De Villiers
Things are much, much tighter at the front of the truck race with no driver enjoying the kind of advantage Sainz has in the car contest. At the start of stage 12 leading trucker Federico Villagra (ARG) enjoyed a 16 minute gap between himself and Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) in second place. After 100 kilometres of the day’s special stage Villagra had increased his lead by another 30 minutes.
However, late in the stage Villagra ran into some difficulties and Nikolaev was able to recoup his losses. In addition to this Villagra was handed a 15-minute time penalty for breaking the belt that limits the suspension travel of his truck.
All this back and forth between Nikolaev and Villagra has left the truck division unbelievably poised after stage 12. Three-time Dakar winner Nikolaev has reclaimed the overall lead of the truck race, but the gap to Villagra is just one second with two stages remaining!
While the leads in the car and truck race expanded and contracted today, there was no such movement in the bike or quad contests. That’s because stage 12 for these two categories was cancelled late last night due to safety concerns.
With no racing today it’s still Matthias Walkner (AUT) of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team who holds first place, more than 30 minutes ahead of Kevin Benavides (ARG) in second. Then comes Walkner’s KTM team-mate Toby Price (AUS) a further six minutes behind.
My starting position for tomorrow is not so bad. Tomorrow looks like it will be another really hard day with lots of off-piste. I’ll try to do my best and we’ll see what happens. Matthias Walkner
As well as Walkner and Price being on course for podium finishes there’s also plenty still to aim at for fellow KTM riders Antoine Méo (FRA) and Laia Sanz (ESP). Méo finished his first and only Dakar in 7th place overall and in his second attempt he’s in 5th place. And then there’s Sanz with a previous best of 9th, she’s in 12 place with two stages left and could break into the Top 10 once again.
It’s not great to have another cancelled stage because I would like to keep climbing the rankings, but also the stage looked really dangerous so I think it was better not to do it. Antoine Méo
The only position that quad biker Ignacio Casale (CHI) has any intention of finishing in is first place. It’s the spot he has held in the general rankings since winning the first stage from Lima to Pisco nearly two weeks ago. Casale has an advantage of 1h34m13s over Nicolás Cavigliasso (ARG) in second place with 489 kilometres still to be raced against clock.
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage of the rally allows the Dakar convoy to glimpse the finish line. That’s because we’re off to Córdoba where the race will eventually end on Saturday. But before the chequered flag falls there are two days of intense racing to complete first.
Top 3 Results
Overall standings after stage 12 Cars
1. CARLOS SAINZ (ESP) PEUGEOT 42:24:31
2. STEPHANE PETERHANSEL (FRA) PEUGEOT +00:44:41
3. NASSER AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA +01:05:55
Overall standings after stage 12 Bikes
1. MATTHIAS WALKNER (AUT) KTM 36:33:37
2. KEVIN BENAVIDES (ARG) HONDA +00:32:00
3. TOBY PRICE (AUS) KTM +00:39:17
Overall standings after stage 12 Quads
1. IGNACIO CASALE (CHI) YAMAHA 46:04:20
2. NICOLAS CAVIGLIASSO (ARG) YAMAHA +01:34:13
3. JEREMIAS GONZALEZ FERIOLI (ARG) YAMAHA +02:09:15
Overall standings after stage 12 Trucks
1. EDUARD NIKOLAEV (RUS) KAMAZ 47:14:31
2. FEDERICO VILLAGRA (ARG) IVECO +00:00:01
3. SIARHEI VIAZOVICH (BLR) MAZ +03:26:14
Carlos Sainz: We had a difficult stage again. We had a puncture and then we had some gearbox problems, but everything is fine because we’ve finished the stage which is the important thing. We were stuck in third gear at the end of the stage so we stayed in third. But there’s still two more days two more days.
Stéphane Peterhansel: I was always aware of the small gap between myself and Nasser Al-Attiyah in third place so I wanted to protect that. We managed to do this so that’s a good accomplishment for the day. Our speed was good and also the speed of Ten Brinke who opened the road was very fast. It wasn’t an easy stage, we were in lots of rios. It was necessary to find a waypoint in the middle of one of these rios so that was not easy. We had some amazing scenery today, awesome canyons.
Nasser Al Attiyah: On the second part we tried to push, but just to keep third place overall. We finished today with two flat tyres. I think we lost four minutes, maybe three and a half… yeah, four minutes. It was not easy. Bernard did a good job. We are quite happy to make it a race. We still have two days left and we’ll see what we can do. There are a few minutes between us and everything is possible.
Giniel de Villiers: Nice stage. Quite hard, you know. You had to concentrate. It was a lot different to yesterday and the day before. There were a lot of stones and a lot of rios.
For us, it was just a pity we had a couple of punctures in the first part of the special. We lost about four minutes there, but otherwise it was okay. We’re just going to try and drive the next two days cleanly, as quick as possible and we’ll see what happens.
Matthias Walkner: It was something new to ride together with the cars yesterday. I was with the car of Stéphane Peterhansel from the 70-kilometre mark onwards and it was a good day. My starting position for tomorrow is not so bad. Tomorrow looks like it will be another really hard with lots of off-piste. I’ll try to do my best and we’ll see what happens.
Toby Price: Yesterday’s stage went well after starting off behind a few cars and trucks. Coming away with a stage win was good. It was my first one of this Dakar Rally so I was pumped about that. It still doesn’t fix the entire situation, but we’re third overall so that’s not too bad. I’m losing days at the moment and today got cancelled due too safety. It would have been nice to have that day but not too worry. We’re all good and ready to race tomorrow.
Antoine Méo: Yesterday was an enjoyable stage because I found a nice rhythm to push. I was not the fastest but still I had some good speed. Then I had a crash 10 kilometres from the finish. It was quite a big crash so I’m happy that the bike was still in one piece and I could carry on in the race. It’s not great to have another cancelled stage because I would like to keep climbing the rankings, but also the stage looked really dangerous so I think it was better not to do it.
Laia Sanz: It was a hard day yesterday because I started in the second group behind some trucks and cars. I think this is really dangerous and not good. This meant that the riders who started in front who I’m fighting with in the overall were able to make a big gap yesterday. I could not push because it was too dangerous, I was in the dust of a truck for a long time. It was a very tiring day and near the end of the stage I had a crash. After all of this I have to be happy to be here in one piece. I feel lucky that they cancelled the stage today because I really need the chance to rest a bit.