Saturday, January 9, 2016

Loeb Retakes Class Lead

The 2016 Dakar Rally returned to Argentina and there was a change at the top of the car class.

Carlos Sainz won his first stage of this year's rally. The Spaniard defeated his Peugeot teammate Sébastien Loeb by 38 seconds. Nasser Al-Attiyah finished third, three minutes and 22 seconds behind Sainz. Stéphane Peterhansel entered stage seven as the car class leader but the Frenchman relinquished his lead after finishing fourth, five seconds behind Al-Attiyah. Mikko Hirvonen cracked the top five and was four minutes and seven seconds behind Sainz. Cyril Despres finished five minutes and 24 seconds back in sixth with Giniel de Villiers a second behind Despres. Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Leeroy Poulter followed their Toyota teammate de Villiers in eighth and ninth. They were six minutes and 42 seconds back and six minutes and 57 seconds back respectively. Nani Roma was tenth, seven minutes and 16 seconds back. Robby Gordon finished 11th, ten minutes and a second back.

Loeb takes a two-minute and 22-second lead into the rest day over Peterhansel. Sainz is four minutes and 50 seconds back in third. Al-Attiyah is fourth, over 17 minutes back and Hirvonen rounds out the top five, over 32 minutes behind Loeb. Toyota drivers take up the next four spots in the overall classifications. De Villiers leads Poulter, Al-Rajhi and Vladimir Vasilyev, who finished 13th on stage seven. Emiliano Spataro is tenth, the first driver over an hour behind Loeb.

Sheldon Creed remains the top American, 24th overall after finishing 21st on stage seven. Gordon is now 28th overall. Both drivers are over three and a half hours back.

Antoine Meo won his first career Dakar Rally stage. The Frenchman defeated Kevin Benavides by a minute and 53 seconds. Bike class leader Paulo Gonçalves finished third on the stage, three seconds behind Benavides. Michael Metge was fourth, three minutes and 51 seconds back. Hélder Rodrigues finished four minutes and 28 seconds behind Meo in fifth. Toby Price finished sixth, five seconds outside the top five. Pablo Quintanilla was 19 seconds behind the Australian in seventh. Txomin Arana was eighth, five minutes and three seconds. Ivan Cervandes and Gerard Farres rounded out the top ten. Cervandes was thirty seconds behind Arana and Farres was 28 seconds back of Cervandes.

Gonçalves retains the class lead into the rest day. He is three minutes and 12 seconds ahead of Price and nine minutes and 24 seconds ahead of Štefan Svitko, who finished 11th on stage seven. Quintanilla is 18 minutes and six seconds back in fourth with Benavides 21 minutes and a second back. Meo is five seconds behind Benavides. In seventh, Rodrigues is 22 minutes and 44 seconds behind his fellow countryman. Farres is eighth, 29 minutes and 57 seconds behind Gonçalves. Alain Duclos is over a half an hour back in ninth after finishing 15th on stage seven. Juan Pedrero rounds out the top ten, 32 minutes back after finishing 16th on the stage.

American Ricky Brabec finished 12th and is now 12th overall, over 38 minutes back. Ian Blythe is nearly two hours back in 34th. Alexander Smith is over three and a half hour behind Gonçalves in 47th. Scott Bright trails Smith by just less than an hour in 58th. Carroll Gittere is over seven hours back in 83rd.

Argentine Lucas Bonetto won his first stage of this year's rally. He won the quad class by 29 seconds over fellow countryman Pablo Copetti. Walter Nosiglia finished third, 54 seconds back. The Patronelli brothers rounded out the top five. Alejandro finished two minutes and 34 seconds back and Marcos was 48 seconds behind his brother.

Alejandro Patronelli continues to lead overall. He leads his brother by three minutes and 36 seconds. Russian Sergei Karyakin is third; seven minutes and 51 seconds back after finishing seventh on stage seven. Jeremias González is over 26 minutes behind Patronelli after he finished sixth on the stage. Alexis Hernandez rounds out the top five, just over a minute behind Gonzàlez. Since winning stage five, Hernandez had failed to crack the top five in a stage. The Peruvian finished 11th on stage seven, matching his worst stage finish in this year's race.

In the truck class, Eduard Nikolaev won his second stage of this year's Dakar. The Russian beat Kamaz teammate Airat Mardeev by 58 seconds. Dutchman Pieter Versluis was third, a minute and 17 seconds behind Nikolaev. Gerard de Rooy finished two minutes and 11 seconds back in fourth and Andrey Karginov was fifth, six minutes and 44 seconds behind his countryman.

Versluis leads the truck class heading into the rest day after Hans Stacey finished ninth on stage seven and drops to fifth in class. Versluis leads de Rooy by five minutes and 31 seconds. Ten minutes and 48 seconds back is Mardeev with Nikolaev six seconds behind his fellow Russian. Stacey is 11 minutes and 28 seconds behind Versluis.

Sunday will be a rest day. On Monday, the teams head from Salta to Bélen.