Although famed for its harsh, no-nonsense conditions, this year’s Dakar Rally saw the event organisers cancel one of the stages due to unusually bad weather. While it gifted the teams some unexpected rest, it also increased the pressure to perform on the remaining days as the finish line draws ever closer.
2018 Dakar Rally: Stage 9 – Tupiza, Bolivia, to Salta, Argentina (cancelled)
Tremendously wet weather over the past few days forced the organisers to officially cancel Stage 9 at the last minute. Not only was there extreme flooding throughout the route to Salta but the fast-flowing water had eroded many of the banks lining the way. The cancelation meant that all teams had the chance to enjoy some additional rest without affecting their current rankings, though the loss of a stage reduced everybody’s chance to improve position.
Rain had also damaged many of the service bivouacs in Tupiza, which were essential for sheltering the crews as they conducted essential repairs and maintenance after the marathon stages. So the chance to haul the crews out of the mud to a new base in Salta was welcomed.
With just five stages left, the navigators in particular are feeling the pressure as they must now make changes to their attack plan to account for flooded areas on their way to the podium in Córdoba.
2018 Dakar Rally: Stage 10 – Salta, Argentina, to Belén, Peru
After an unexpected day’s rest, the Dakar competitors were in top shape at the start line. It marked the first time for the teams to run in the lower altitudes and sandy plateaus of Argentina before dipping briefly back into Peru.
With the finish line just five days away, there is no longer any room for error. A fact that Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s (TGRSA) Giniel de Villiers took to heart in the #304 Hilux, taking second place with one of his best runs on the Dakar this year. His attacking performance through the sand dunes and camal grass puts him in contention for a podium finish.
Team-mate Bernhard ten Brinke also ran well, taking fifth place in this #309 Hilux, while Nasser Al-Attiyah had to nurse his #301 Hilux through the stage with a broken rear control arm, eventually limping home in tenth place just ahead of the Overdrive Toyota team Hilux. Also in the wars was Benediktas Vanagas (below), whose privately run #323 Hilux came home in 24th despite losing a wheel on the stage.
Over in the Production category, Akira Miura’s consistent determination behind the wheel of his #337 Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body (TLC) car saw him take another remarkable first place finish.
2018 Dakar Rally: Stage 11 – Belén, Peru, to Chilecito, Argentina
Stage 11 marked the arrival of one of the Dakar Rally’s most feared stages, taking in the dunes of Fiambalá – the scene of many upsets in previous raids. To make things even more dramatic, the day was run as a super stage, meaning the top ten crews all set off at the same time and would be gunning through the checkpoints at maximum speed.
Leading the pack from the very start was TGRSA’s #309 Hilux with Bernhard ten Brinke behind the wheel, who claimed his first stage win of 2018. Magnanimously, ten Brinke credited his performance to co-driver Michel Perin, who navigated the pair across new lines rather than following the road ahead.
Team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah came home in fifth, just five minutes behind despite suffering two punctures, proving how closely matched many of the top runners are, while Giniel de Villiers followed suit taking sixth place. Meanwhile, Overdrive Toyota’s Lucio Alvarez performed well in his home area, finishing tenth.
TLC’s Akira Miura didn’t falter in his #337 Land Cruiser, tackling the elevation and terrain changes with ease. He took first place in the Production category and maintains his first place in class.
2018 Dakar Rally: overall positions after Stage 11
|1||Carlos Sainz||36h 16m 27s||Peugeot|
|2||Stéphane Peterhansel||+ 01h 00m 45s||Peugeot|
|3||Nasser Al-Attiyah||+ 01h 24m 02s||Toyota|
|4||Bernhard ten Brinke||+ 01h 27m 35s||Toyota|
|5||Giniel de Villiers||+ 01h 40m 05s||Toyota|
|6||Jakub Przygonski||+ 02h 54m 18s||Mini|
|7||Khalid Al Qassimi||+ 03h 26m 19s||Peugeot|
|8||Martin Prokop||+ 05h 53m 08s||Ford|
|9||Peter van Merksteijn||+ 06h 31m 09s||Toyota|
|10||Sebastian Halpern||+ 08h 41m 21s||Toyota|