Would stage 13 at the Dakar Rally prove to be unlucky for some? You can bet it would be as the convoy took on over 350 kilometres of racing between San Juan and Córdoba. With the penultimate stage representing the last chance to claw back significant time on opponents we saw some real make or break performances today.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) started the day in third overall and the first car on the stage as a result of setting yesterday’s fastest time. The Qatari soon found himself in trouble on stage 13 and lost over 10 minutes due to mechanical difficulties. However, he was able to get himself on the move again and set about protecting his podium position. It would come as a surprise to Al-Attiyah that by the end of the stage he had actually risen one place in the general classification.
Today was very, very tough. It was easy to make a mistake or to crash, because it was really sandy with a lot of big trees. It wasn’t easy, but OK… this is the Dakar. Nasser Al Attiyah
With one stage left to run Al-Attiyah is the car race’s runner-up, 46 minutes behind frontrunner Carlos Sainz (ESP). This change in the leaderboard is partly due to the misfortune suffered by 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA). Peterhansel’s Peugeot clipped a tree 78km into the special stage and was only able to resume racing after assistance arrived in the form of team-mate Cyril Despres (FRA).
Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. Carlos Sainz
Despres helped prepare an improvised splint for Peterhansel’s sprained thumb and the broken steering rod was fixed by mechanics at the neutralisation section of the stage. The entire episode ended up costing Peterhansel over an hour.
Peterhansel’s problems and the retirement of Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD) also saw promotion up the rankings for Giniel De Villiers (ZAF). De Villiers is now third overall and on course to secure a 12th Top 5 finish of his Dakar career. Meanwhile, Kuba Przygonski (POL) is fifth overall and if the Pole can hold that position tomorrow it will be his best ever finish from his previous efforts in both the car and bike race.
Physically, mentally and even for the car, it was an unbelievable stage. I haven’t seen a Dakar this crazy for a long time. It’s certainly one of the hardest since we have been in South America. Giniel De Villiers
Could Toby Price (AUS) replicate the result of Al-Attiyah and make a late grab for second spot in the bike race? Price started the day seven minutes behind Kevin Benavides (ARG). Benavides in turn sat 32 minutes back from bike race leader Matthias Walkner (AUT).
The whole idea today was just to not make anything crazy. I knew it was going to be a really, really long day. The guys behind would really be pushing today, but I had my own job to do so I just focused on that. Matthias Walkner
Price, the 2016 Dakar champion, opened the stage and continued to lead from the front from start to finish. Eventually he took two minutes out of Benavides and will be back to chase down the remaining five minutes tomorrow.
I made a little bit of time in the last bit and also went off track and made a few small mistakes. I was trying to do a bit of both today, bag a stage win and also move closer to second overall. Toby Price
As for Walkner, he was able to ride a shrewd stage and the performance has left him with a lead of over 22 minutes from Benavides in second. Walkner and Price’s KTM team-mates Antoine Méo (FRA) and Laia Sanz (ESP) were also able to gain places on this Dakar’s second to last stage. Méo is now fourth overall while Sanz is 11th in the general classification. Just one place and two minutes separate Sanz and Daniel Nosiglia (BOL) who is one place behind the Spanish biker.
It’s a great feeling to be coming to the end of another Dakar. This one has been so tough and it’s a relief to now be just one more stage away from the finishing line. Laia Sanz
Also still battling their way towards the finish line are Ivan Cervantes (ESP), Mohammed Balooshi (UAE) and CS Santosh (IND).
The trucks set off from San Juan with just a mere second separating leader Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) and runner-up Federico Villagra (ARG). With both truckers having traversed nearly 8,000 kilometres and raced for over 47 hours since leaving Lima it really was astonishing to be practically neck-and-neck.
Early on stage 13 Villagra recouped that one second and went ahead by a full minute. However, the Iveco driver came to a halt later on in the special stage and handed the advantage back to Nikolaev of Team Kamaz Master. Nikolaev was able to end the day with a lead of over three hours from Siarhei Viazovich (BLR) who now holds second after Villagra was eventually forced to retire on stage 13.
There were no late nerves for quad race leader Ignacio Casale (CHI) as he drove another measured stage. Casale’s overall lead now stands at 1h37m16s over Nicolás Cavigliasso (ARG) who remains in second spot.
I’m so close to celebrating another triumph on the Dakar. This race has been perfect, even if it is the hardest of all the Dakar rallies that I have ridden. Ignacio Casale
So will Sainz, Walkner, Nikolaev and Casale all be able to hang onto their healthy leads on the final day of racing? On the menu is 120km of racing around the region of Argentina which the World Rally Championship comes to visit annually. When that chequered flag falls expect one big motorsport party to break out in Córdoba.
Top 3 Results
Overall standings after stage 13 Cars
1. CARLOS SAINZ (ESP) PEUGEOT 47:46:30
2. NASSER AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA +00:46:18
3. GINIEL DE VILLIERS (ZAF) TOYOTA +01:20:00
Overall standings after stage 13 Bikes
1. MATTHIAS WALKNER (AUT) KTM 41:33:42
2. KEVIN BENAVIDES (ARG) HONDA +00:22:31
3. TOBY PRICE (AUS) KTM +00:27:45
Overall standings after stage 13 Quads
1. IGNACIO CASALE (CHI) YAMAHA 52:03:39
2. NICOLAS CAVIGLIASSO (ARG) YAMAHA +01:37:16
3. JEREMIAS GONZALEZ FERIOLI (ARG) YAMAHA +02:05:12
Overall standings after stage 13 Trucks
1. EDUARD NIKOLAEV (RUS) KAMAZ 47:14:31
2. SIARHEI VIAZOVICH (BLR) MAZ +03:26:14
3. AYRAT MARDEEV (RUS) KAMAZ +05:20:15
Nasser Al Attiyah: It was a very hard and very long day with 1,000km in total with the stage and link. It’s a long day for us. I’m quite happy to be here and finished now that we are in second place. This is really a great moment. There is still one stage left. Tomorrow there are 140km left and we will try to do our best and concentrate to keep our position. Today was very, very tough. It was easy to make a mistake or to crash, because it was really sandy with a lot of big trees. It wasn’t easy, but OK… this is the Dakar.
Carlos Sainz: The first part was very difficult. I think a lot of competitors behind me will have had problems. I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts. Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK tomorrow.
Giniel De Villiers: It was a very tough day again, with a first part in the fesh-fesh, where we got stuck when I avoided a biker who had crashed. Our engine wasn’t working as well after that and it was very hard work. This stage was like survival. Physically, mentally and even for the car, it was an unbelievable stage. I haven’t seen a Dakar this crazy for a long time. It’s certainly one of the hardest since we have been in South America.
Toby Price: It was a good fast track with some really rough sections so I could push pretty hard there. I made a little bit of time in the last bit and also went off track and made a few small mistakes. I was trying to do a bit of both today, bag a stage win and also move closer to second overall. Unfortunately I made that big mistake a few days back and that’s cost me a lot. Now we’re just trying to claw back as much as we can and show that we’ve got good speed.
Matthias Walkner: The whole idea today was just to not make anything crazy. I knew it was going to be a really, really long day. The guys behind would really be pushing today, but I had my own job to do so I just focused on that. The gap is quite big but that can all
change very quickly with a mechanical problem or getting a little but lost. I’m just doing my best to keep things as straightforward as possible.
Antoine Méo: Today Toby was on the gas so it was not possible to catch him. Believe me I tried, but it was impossible. Halfway through the stage I could feel that I’d worn down my back tyre so to stay safe I slowed down a little bit. I was a quick day today. I’m happy that I could move up a place today and feeling satisfied ahead of tomorrow.
Laia Sanz: I’m feeling much better today after the cancelation of yesterday’s stage gave me the chance to get some rest. It’s a great feeling to be coming to the end of another Dakar. This one has been so tough and it’s a relief to now be just one more stage away from the finishing line. We’re starting to see the crowds get bigger and I’m sure tomorrow we’ll have a lot of people here to cheer us over the line.
Daniel Nosiglia: The second part was really fast today so I’m happy to have got through that OK. There’s just one more day to go now so the finish line is starting to become a reality. I think we have tracks to follow on tomorrow’s stage so hopefully we can have some fun out there before we finish this race.
Ignacio Casale: It was a very long day, but a real pleasure. I’m feeling good physically, my quad is perfect and I just want to enjoy tomorrow. I’m so close to celebrating another triumph on the Dakar. This race has been perfect, even if it is the hardest of all the Dakar rallies that I have ridden.