Re-Grouping and Preparing For The Unknown Dakar Gears Up For Stage 10

Nobody expected that yesterday would bring a massive mud avalanche, putting the brakes on stage 9. The natural disaster would divert competitors and support vehicles hundreds kilometers and six to seven hours to the bivouac, causing everyone to arrive late and tireless inspections. With stage 9 cancelled, all competitors retain their current rankings. Officials have decided to keep the 751 km course for stage 10. With the finish in Buenos Aires in sight, the race is not determined yet. Toyota is still has a chance at claiming a piece of the podium.

Yesterday’s stage 8 is an example of when the risks of a rally raid are too high. The Dakar is a tough and dangerous rally that pushes everyone to their limits. When competitors are placed in situations which are too dangerous, the organization must make difficult decisions. Especially when lives are at stake. The muddy landslide which hit the village of Volcan near the finish in Salta, was a clear reason to take such action. The caravan to the planned bivouac was sent on a detour around the disaster area hundreds of kilometers with teams arriving at a makeshift bivouac, then onto Chilecito. Dakar held medical and logistical resources behind to assist local authorities with the muddy landslide disaster which displaces some forty families.

No easy stages

With three stages shortened and two cancelled including today’s planned stage 9, the rally already wrote history again. Stage 9’s special stage to Chilecito could have been a decisive one in the overall ranking. The nearly 1000 km stage was set to be in lower altitudes, allowing vehicles to go all out and giving competitors a chance to attack the leaderboards. The verdict of this day could have marked a turning point in the conquest for the titles. Now, with three stages to go, there’s very little room for error. Any mechanical or navigational trouble can easily knock anyone off the leaderboard and erase a chance to podium.

The last leg of the Dakar will be a battle

The cancellation of today’s stage did the competitors no favors. The competitors were all exhausted after yesterday’s long stage and today’s never-ending liaison to Chilecito. Despite all this, competitors are in high spirits. All vehicles will have another chance to inspect their rigs before the 751 km dash to San Juan for stage 10. TLC driver Akira Miura in the #332 was happy to have time to inspect his Land Cruiser after stage 8’s terrain conditions proved to be a workout on the drivetrain. He experienced a failure with the exhaust system on the raid, causing worry all the way to the bivouac. Christian Lavieille in the #327 Land Cruiser has had a great run thus far. He shared that the key moving forward is all about keeping a good pace while balancing the vehicle’s condition.  No one wants to withdrawal at this point. Team TGRSA is working on a game plan of an all out “attack” on the leaderboards tomorrow so its is anyone victory to claim. Dakar is a battle, and changes to the rally won’t stop the Toyota teams from fighting till the end. 

Awaiting the competitors tomorrow: Competitors will begin stage 10 in Chilecito, the starting position of the special stage towards San Juan. Their shoulders, arms and legs will be put to the test, especially during the long “trail” section that will be key to setting their pace early in the day. The special stage will become a lot more rolling as it nears its end, where the best navigation skills can make the difference. Errors will be penalized, not by seconds but by minutes.

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