Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Dakar: Carlos Sainz on track, Mini Countryman in trouble

Carlos Sainz was master of the road and took a short lead on Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah. Times are already tough for Gordon, Roma and Chicherit. In the truck category, today’s opening stage was marked by the withdrawal of Gerard De Rooy and by Vladimir Chagin’s 57th victory.

Carlos Sainz was not really scared when he started on this Dakar behind the wheel of his Race Touareg III. Since he won the last edition of the rally raid, the Spaniard also added a victory on the Silk Way to his track record.

He is starting his Latin American journey with a bar set pretty high. Starting first, Sainz was never caught by Peterhansel. Despite wiper problems that prevented him from racing at full speed through a stage troubled by some rain storms, he gets the best time of the day, 1’31’’ ahead of the X-Raid Team leader.

Nasser Al Attiyah stays close to the lead duet with a 2’16’’ delay, a margin almost identical to the one that separated the two men at the end of the rally-raid last year (2’12’’).

Their contenders were not spared by this first warming-up stage. If Miller (VW), De Villiers (VW) and Holowczyc (BMW X-Raid) did defend their odds pretty well, Robby Gordon lost – in one stage – what he expected to lose before entering Chile, i.e. a good ten minutes.

And the loss is even more painful for Joan “Nani” Roma. A faulty demisting system in his Nissan pick-up was a serious handicap for him. Roma finished with a delay of more than 17 minutes.

Chances of him finishing on the podium are now pretty far for former Dakar winner in the bike category.

The debuts of the Mini Countryman of Guerlain Chicherit have also been troubled.

If the mountain man already feared the trouble linked to the cooling system, he did not expect trouble to show so early and so badly.

After stopping several times on this special stage, he has already lost almost one hour against Sainz and will have a particularly stressful Dakar if mechanical problems keep popping up.

The damage done is even worse for day one in the truck category, especially for the Dutch.

Wulfert Van Ginkel, who somersaulted on the motorway, could not even start the rally raid. And, more importantly, Gerard De Rooy, for his return to the competition after his injury on the Silk Way Rally in 2009, paid – once again – a high price for precipitation.

At km 72 his truck lifted off the ground and the impact of the landing immediately resurrected terrible back pain that led De Rooy to withdrawal. So Ales Loprais will be the only capable of playing trouble-maker against the Kamaz team that has already put two of its trucks and drivers at the top of the rankings: Vladimir Chagin and Firdaus Kabirov. This is the 57th stage victory for the “Czar” on a Dakar.

Source: Dakar 2011

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