The world’s toughest race is earning its reputation in South America as the 2018 Dakar Rally put the convoy through their paces on stage eight. Competitors faced a monster 500-kilometre special stage between Uyuni and Tupiza. Added to this, today was the second half of a marathon stage and that’s why this was the most gruelling couple of days at this Dakar so far…
But not everyone was struggling, least of all Antoine Méo (FRA) who won his second stage of this year’s bike contest. The French rider now stands sixth overall and within 10 minutes of the lead in an extremely competitive bike category.
“Since the morning I was on the attack. The goal was to claw back six or seven minutes on the leaders. I’m satisfied with the result and it felt good to keep pushing until the end.” – Antoine Méo
Méo’s fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders Toby Price (AUS), Matthias Walkner (AUT)and Laia Sanz (ESP) all joined their French colleague inside the Top 10 on stage eight. This excellent all round team display highlights the group’s riding ability as well as the durability of the all-new KTM 450 Rally.
“Each day is getting better and better. We caught some time on the leaders today but that means that on the next stage we have to start close to the front. That might end up costing us a bit of time.” – Toby Price
The astonishing Top 6 in the bike race now stands at Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) in first, just 22 seconds ahead of second place Kevin Benavides (ARG). Then Walkner in third is 6m34s off the lead with team-mate Price a further minute back. Joan Barreda (ESP) is fifth overall, eight minutes behind Van Beveren and less than two minutes ahead of Méo in sixth. Then comes Stefan Svitko (SVK) in seventh, 31m55s off the summit.
An impressive marathon stage from Sanz has promoted her to 13th overall, just two places behind Daniel Nosiglia (BOL).
In the car race we saw an amazing turnaround by a pair of Dakar legends who have won this contest a whopping 18 times between them. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) saw his overall lead slip away last night and the damage would have been a lot worse if not for the help of Peugeot team-mate Cyril Despres (FRA).
It was a different story on today’s second half of the marathon for the two French drivers as Peterhansel won the stage and Despres followed him home in second place. The stage win was Monsieur Dakar’s 40th of his illustrious career, while Despres was just 49 seconds behind.
“It was long, with tough sections at altitude, so it was already difficult. But at least we didn’t run into trouble, which is good. I’m not back in the game, because we’re talking hours of time difference and I just got a few minutes back.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
Peterhansel’s team-mate Carlos Sainz (ESP) maintained his overall lead in the car race with fifth place on the stage.
“Every day we make it to the finish is a good day. Everything is going fine, we have to stay focused.” – Carlos Sainz
Third place on the stage was enough for Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) to cut the gap between himself and Sainz by nearly six minutes but the deficit still stands at 1h06m37s. The Qatari’s Toyota Gazoo Racing SA team-mate Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) slipped to 5th overall on stage eight.
“We are here at the finish and quite happy and we’ll try to do our best in the next six days. If Carlos makes a mistake, we can catch him, but one hour… it’s gonna be difficult.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
There was a podium finish on stage eight for quad biker Ignacio Casale (CHI) to celebrate but his focus remains on the big prize waiting at the finish line in Cordoba. Casale’s lead in the quad division currently stands at a substantial 1h45m20s
The four crews of Team Kamaz Master are really finding their groove in the second week of this Dakar. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) is out in front at the top of the leaderboard and his three team-mates are moving up closer to him day by day. On stage eight Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS), Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) and Anton Shibalov (RUS) all joined Nikolaev in the Top 10.
Due to a deluge of rainfall in the Tupiza area it has been decided by race organisers to call off tomorrow’s scheduled stage. Instead the route to Salta, Argentina will be driven as a liaison stage before racing restarts on Tuesday with 373km of timed special through the dunes of Belen.
The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally takes place from January 6 until January 20. Watch daily updates of all the action from South America at www.RedBull.com/Dakar.
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