The 2013 is turning into an epic battle between the duo Stéphane Peterhansel’s X-Raid Mini and the Red Bull Buggy of Nasser Al-Attiyah. With today marking the halfway point of the even the competitors finally get a chance to rest at San Miguel de Tucumán in Argentina before the final half of the rally-raid: the surviving cars, bikes, trucks and quads still have 3,892km to navigate through Argentina and Chile before the finish in Santiago on January 20 – half of that competitively.
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The lead has been traded back and forth on the 2013 edition of the Dakar rally-raid – and not always on the stages themselves. The first major occurrence was Carlos Sainz being retrospectively handed the Stage Two win, after his GPS problem was traced to satellite data supplied by the series organisers themselves. The win pushed ‘The Matador’ into a three minute lead over Mini’s Stéphane Peterhansel. However, his gain was short-lived as his buggy suffered electrical problems on the third day, losing him 20 minutes and dropping him to fifth in the standings. His misery was then compounded that evening when the Dakar officials decided to reverse their decision, and took away his Stage Two win.
Peterhansel had in any case hit his stride on the 243 kilometres of Stage Three, retaking the lead lost in the steward’s office with a trouble-free run through the dunes.
Sainz’s team-mater Nasser Al-Attiyah was second fastest on the third day and then blitzed the 289km of Stage Four (the longest stage so far) to win by 36 seconds from Guerlain Chicherit’s SMG buggy. This great performance moved him up to second position overall, closing in on Peterhansel who finished Stage Four in third, over a minute behind Al-Attiyah.
More major player have also dropped out of contention on these tough opening Special Stages: Krzysztof Holowczyc crashed his Mini less than 30 miles into the third stage and had to be airlifted to hospital, and Robby Gordon has had a disaster. After finishing second the previous day he rolled his Hummer on Stage Four and landed on the roof – he lost several hours and is effectively out of contention.
We’re two stages into the 2013 Dakar rally, and it’s the X-Raid Mini of Dakar veteran Stéphane Peterhansel that leads overall. The Mini squad of Peterhansel, Nani Roma and Krzysztof Hołowczyc headed into the rally as one of the favourite teams, but veteran Carlos Sainz had swapped from his old VW machinery to a Red Bull Buggy for his return to the Dakar and looked more than at home in his new vehicle.
Sainz came home first on the opening short stage on Day One – just an eight mile competitive run though the dunes near the town of Pisco, though that followed a 155 mile drive from the Peruvian capital of Lima. 37 seconds separated the top 10 drivers, but Robby Gordon’s 2013 Dakar got off to an inauspicious start after his Hummer bogged down, losing the American 10 minutes on even such a short stage. Local Peruvian quad biker Ignacio Flores took a maiden win for his country and Chilean Francisco López headed the bikes.
Day Two saw the first stage proper: after a 50 mile drive the 150 mile sandy loop around Pisco. Sainz and his buggy co-driver made a navigational error at a huge dune 50km into the stage. Going straight over isn’t always the right way… Sainz ended up losing 18 minutes trying to get back on the correct route. Roma (Mini) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Red Bull Buggy) suffered similar route problems and several other front-runners also hit mechanical issues (Gordon lost yet more time and is now 49 minutes off the lead). This left Peterhansel to use all his experience to build up a lead of lever two and a half minutes in his Mini after three hours of competitive stages. Things are only just warming up…
The Autódromo De Terramar-Sitges is a kidney-shaped oval near Barcelona in Spain. Built back in 1922 it held a handful of races before falling into disuse, but unlike many of its contemporaries this ghost-track oval is accessible and intact. Crumbling… but intact. Minor events aside, it’s stood in the Spanish sunshine for 80 years, awaiting the sound of another real racing car.
Since the start of Speedhunters in 2008, I’ve made a point of reading literally every single comment posted on our stories. I’m always interested to see what you think of our work, both the good and the bad. There are always changes going on in automotive trends and tastes, and reading your comments helps to [...]