No great surprises on Stage 8 of the Dakar, as Marc Coma still leads overall, followed closely by Cyril Despres (both on KTMs) and with Chile’s Francisco Lopez (Aprilia) their only likely challenger. They finished the stage in that order, having ridden together for much of the day.
It was a day with a long special stage — 508 km — that put a premium on navigation, looping through a confusing long series of deep valleys filled with old mining shafts and unmarked tracks to and from these abandoned sites.
Despres wasn’t overly impressed with Coma and Lopez staying with him, cracking, “The problem with navigation is like in cycling, some riders stick to your back wheel like leeches; well, there’s the same thing in rally raids too.”
He added, “It wasn’t too bad at all today … And it wasn’t easy to open the way, so obviously the others catch up with you. Chaleco and me opened up the way and we had a great time. Today, the game was to stay right behind following in my tracks. He didn’t take too many risks, but, you know, that happens. You can’t do much about it, but we still distanced the rest of them by miles. Chaleco led the way on all the quick parts and I did the dunes.”
Coma commented, “It was a hard stage and very long with plenty of mileage and dunes. With Cyril and Chaleco we all rode together. We took turns to open the way, at a very fast pace too … It was a good stage after a complicated one yesterday.”
Here’s a video of Ignacio Chivite competing in
The day’s fourth-placed rider, Helder Rodrigues on a Yamaha, occupies the same rank in the general standings, but trails the Chilean rider by almost 20 minutes. Fifth is Ruben Faria on another KTM.
One retirement worthy of note, and perhaps a special CMG Mad Bastard award if we had one, is Spaniard Ignacio Chivite, who entered the Dakar on – wait for it – a 1978 Bultaco.
Even more unbelievably, with no crew to help him, he managed to get as far as the fourth stage before being forced to retire from exhaustion and insurmountable mechanical problems.
After riding for 18 hours, working on the bike, then grabbing perhaps an hour or two of sleep, it’s amazing he lasted as long as he did – and he’s not going to be in last place, either. Well done, Senor Chivite!
The Stage 9 route isn’t long, a big loop taking them back to yesterday’s bivouac. It’s only 270 km with a 235 km special, but it’s almost all dunes and will be not only physically punishing but also very difficult to navigate.
On the car side, Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah took the overall lead after winning the eighth stage. The Volkswagen driver, runner-up last year, is now 5 minutes 14 seconds ahead of teammate and defending champion Carlos Sainz.
"I can control the race now," warned the Qatari driver. "It was a difficult stage because I was opening all the way, but the dunes are my favourite terrain and I was really pushing to the limit."