Photo: SxS action during the Dakar 2019; Stage 7; San Juan de Marcona - San Juan de Marcona; peru; on january 14. Credit: Frederic Le Floc'h / DPPI.
Visitors to San Juan de Marcona are usually looking for the best plan to discover the Nazca Lines. Stage 7 of the Dakar was completely different, with an assortment of difficulties to fray the nerves of all types of competitors. The fast men were in their element in the fast off-road sectors of the first 100 kilometres, only to suffer in the fesh-fesh and on the rough tracks on a plateau halfway through the stage. For the next 50 kilometres, the focus switched to the dune surfers, with the Duna Grande and Duna Argentina sectors, later to transition to faster stretches near the end of the stage… all while dodging the navigational pitfalls in the vicinity of San Juan.
Sam Sunderland's participation in the 2019 Dakar has been a roller coaster, but today he reached new heights on the 323 km loop around San Juan de Marcona. The 2017 champion claimed his second stage win and moved up the general classification, while Ricky Brabec capitalised on Pablo Quintanilla's sub-par performance to take back the overall lead. Adrien Van Beveren is still banking on a consistent approach, just like car leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, who drove conservatively and conceded 12 minutes to the winner. The Qatari has almost half an hour over the nearest competitor in the general classification and no need to take risks, unlike Stéphane Peterhansel, who got another taste of victory thanks in no small part to Sébastien Loeb's misfortune. The Peugeot 3008 driver was much faster than his rivals, but it was all to no avail after losing 40 minutes to an electrical problem shortly after the start. Meanwhile, Nicolás Cavigliasso had another triumphal parade on his Yamaha quad and continues to rack up one stage after the other. He now leads the rally by 1 h 15. Cavigliasso's virtually unprecedented dominance stands in stark contrast with the SxS category, where every day brings something different. "Chaleco" López took the spoils today, beating new overall leader Reinaldo Varela by a whopping 22 minutes. Finally, Gerard de Rooy staged an impressive comeback in the truck category to grab his second triumph in a row, but Eduard Nikolayev rode out the storm to defend the overall lead. The Dutchman put over half an hour into Siarhei Viazovich, pulling off a stunning coup and zeroing in on the Kamaz overall leader.
Performance of the day
Last year, when he was called up at the last minute to replace Paulo Gonçalves, José Ignacio Cornejo clearly proved that he deserved a spot on the prestigious Honda factory team in his own right. Although the young Chilean rider is still acquiring experience in the toughest rally in the world, he has already become a key asset for HRC. As well as rushing to the aid of any teammate in trouble, Cornejo is extremely fast and smart, as he showed today by matching his career-best result from two days ago —second behind Sam Sunderland. A Dakar stage win will surely come soon.
A crushing blow
Gerard Farrés and Sergey Karyakin, sitting first and second overall in the SxS category this morning, had had an impeccable race so far. It all came to an end when stage 7 devolved into a nightmare for both drivers, especially Karyakin, who did a barrel roll and smashed up the running gear of his BRP buggy near the start of the special. Although the Spaniard and the Russian did not throw in the towel, they plummeted down the classification and can no longer be considered contenders for overall victory. The Dakar can be a bitter experience sometimes, but Farrés and Karyakin will undoubtedly be pretenders to the crown in the future…
Stat of the day
20: The competitors tackled the 20th Peruvian stage in the history of the Dakar (counting stages finishing in Peru), including stages in the 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019 editions. Four competitors are tied in terms of all-time stage wins in Peru. The top two drivers in the car classification, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel, have six apiece, just like truck driver Gerard de Rooy and quad rider Nicolás Cavigliasso… although the Argentinian did it in less than one complete edition!
Quote of the day
Ricky Brabec: “Yeah, I needed a good stage, I needed to push up and get to the front. It wasn't easy, I think I was riding too fast, you know, riding faster than I should have, but... No close calls today, actually no close calls the entire rally, so that's a plus and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for that until the end. I needed a good stage today to get me back on top, and tomorrow hopefully is a little bit easier navigation than today but, you can never be too sure until you're actually out there and navigating. I'm looking forward to the next three days, I think me and Quintanilla are going to fight back and forth until the last kilometer. [Not making a mistake] is the key every day. It's key not to make a mistake, but it's really difficult”.