With a 474km special stage looping around Wadi Al Dawasir in a route of 713km, all eyes were on the time clocks for the Cars category as Fernando Alonso powered his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux to second place on today’s high-speed stage.
Mountains, canyons, soft sand and several chains of dunes: today’s racing would wear out the fittest of crews. With the stage cancelled for all Bike and Quad competitors as a mark of respect for Paulo Goncalves’ death yesterday, it was up to Carlo Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team) to lead the field into the desert. It was a tough day in the MINI Buggy for the Spaniard, as he saw his overall lead being eroded by rivals Nasser Al Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) and Stephane Peterhansel/Paulo Fiuza (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team). With no Bikes tracks to follow, navigation was made all the more difficult for the racers.
Yazeed Al Rajhi/Khonstantin Zhiltsov, starting in a more favourable road position behind the front three, set the early pace in his Overdrive Toyota only to be leapfrogged by Fernando Alonso (Toyota Gazoo Racing), Mathieu Serradori/Fabian Lurquin (SRT Racing), Orlando Terranova/Bernado Graue (X-Raid MINI JCW Team) and Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro (Toyota Gazoo Racing) by the stage’s halfway point. Serradori claimed the lead with 100km of the timed stage remaining, and he managed to edge out an advantage over those chasing.
Alonso rode the dunes with confidence and skill belying his inexperience and tackled a flat-out 40km straight road in his Toyota Hilux with the speed only a Formula One driver can twist out of a vehicle. The double F1 champion drove a strong stage and showed he’s more than capable of reaching higher up the leader board in the second week of the Dakar Rally.
The Spanish driver commented: “Today we had an amazing day. We had one puncture unfortunately and we lost a little bit of momentum there, but otherwise the stage was nearly perfect and Marc was unbelievable, you know – the dunes, the navigation… Even in the last part, we saw that the guys in front of us were a bit lost and we gained more time even there, so this stage from Marc was magic. Having no bikes changed a lot, especially for the first two or three cars. I think they couldn’t reach the pace of the other days. I benefitted from starting from the back, but as I said, I don’t know who will be coming in in position ten or eleven, but they will have even easier tracks, so let’s see. I’m happy to complete the day without any issues. It was a beautiful stage, quite fast with a lot of dunes, so it was good. I think the dunes are harder than tracks, but for whatever reason I feel more comfortable. I’m not coming from the dunes at all but it seems that I can get a good rhythm and a good flow in the dunes and I’m enjoying so far this second week of the Dakar.”
Over the last 50km of the stage, Sainz was caught by Al Attiyah and Peterhansel, and they raced to the finish in a pack.
Frenchman Serradori claimed his first stage victory of 2020, Alonso second with four-minutes behind and Terranova third place.
In the general classifications, Sainz holds onto this overall lead – now reduced to 06min 40sec – over Al Attiyah, Peterhansel third and now 13min 09sec adrift. Alonso has climbed from 15th overall to 13th and is within striking range of a top ten overall position.
The Trucks had a day of high-speed racing and on-the-limit driving. Andrey Karginov/Andrey Mokeev/Igor Leonid (Kamaz-Master) dominated the stage with their superior speed from team-mates Anton Shibalov/Dmitrii Nikitin/Ivan Tatarinov and Ales Loprais/Petr Pokora/Khalid Alkendi (Instaforex Loprais Praga). It was Karginov’s third straight stage win, giving the Russian a healthy 27min 06sec advantage over his rivals.
To highlight today’s Trucks category, Kamaz-Master driver Dmitry Sotnikov sums it up: “It was a long day, sometimes a bit boring because we spent the whole day driving at the speed limit. Our goal was to stay on the limit at all times. We overtook some rivals, including Viazovich, at full speed. We zeroed in on our teammates and followed them until the finish. Mission accomplished.”
Tomorrow’s the longest stage of the Dakar Rally with a total distance of 891km and special stage 415km.
General Classifications after Stage Eight
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): – 31h56m52s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) (Toyota Gazoo Racing): +06m40s
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): +13m09s
1. Ricky Brabec (USA) Monster Energy Honda Team 2020: – 28h25m01s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing: +24m48s
3. Jose Cornejo (CHI) Monster Energy Honda Team 2020: +27m01s
1. Andrey Karginov/AndreyMokeev/Igor Leonid (RUS) Kamaz,-Master: 34h31m43s
2. Anton Shibalov/Dmitrii Nikitin/Ivan Tatarinov (RUS) Kamaz-Master: +27m06s
3. Siarhei Viazovich/ Pavel Haranin/Anton Zaparoshchanka (BLR) Maz-SportAuto: +01h05m17s