Dakar 7-8: Despres third overall



The eighth stage of the first South American Dakar Rally, with a relatively short special stage of 294 km and a day of 652 km total, was won by Cyril Despres (KTM).

Combined with Depres’ third in Stage 7, behind Chilean Francisco Lopez (KTM) (his first stage victory) and overall leader Marc Coma (KTM), that keeps him in third overall behind Coma and David Fretigne (Yamaha), who was fourth and sixth in the weekend stages. Lopez is now seventh, while Coma has a massive hour-plus lead as the rallyists pass the half-way point in the 15-day rally.

Attrition has been deadly, with 329 crews (bikes, quads, cars, and trucks) still in action and 171 out of the game. Already 75 riders have been forced out, including Canada’s Don Hatton on Stage 4.

The stage 9 route for today (Monday, January 12) has been modified due to shifting, unstable sand, so there’s been some rerouting and shortening of the route. Still, with a 537 km day and 429 km special stage, it won’t be an easy run even after the day off yesterday. The route is mostly on what’s described as "mid-range mountain roads" combined with serious dunes and some tricky navigation, heading north through Chile from Valparaiso to Coquimbo, getting up toward the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth.

On the car side, the VW Touregs have taken a hammerlock on the event, controlling the top three spots as the BMW challenge faded. The BMW X3 team of Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah and Tina Thorner (BMW) had radiator problems, had to cut the course to get the vehicle to the end of the day, and were disqualified.

Multi-time bike and car winner Carlos Sainz and navigator Michel Perrin have a 10 minute lead over the first of the other Touregs, with the third team car only another eight minutes back.

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