The two leading Toyotas of Joan Roma and Giniel de Villiers ceded time to their main rivals at the top of the leader board, although Conrad Rautenbach and Erik Van Loon were able to improve their positions in the general classification.
Running with support from Monster Energy, Power Electronics and Air Europa, Roma lost time on the revised first 171km section of the special stage at altitude and reached the finish at PC1 trailing stage leader Loeb by 9min 32sec. He had also ceded time to closest rival Cyril Despres and slipped back to fourth overall.
The Spaniard was able to recoup some of the time in the second half and reached the stage finish in seventh to remain in fourth place. Sébastien Loeb pipped Stéphane Peterhansel to the day’s win to regain a slender overall lead of just 1min 38sec.
Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz began the special third on the road and sixth overall. The South African was a virtual fifth at the finish of section one and had slipped a further 1min 15sec behind fifth-placed rival Mikko Hirvonen. The 2009 winner maintained that position to the end and now trails the Finn by 28min 03sec with four stages remaining before the finish in Buenos Aires on January 14.
Rautenbach and Van Loon climb in their Overdrive Racing Toyotas
Zimbarwean Conrad Rautenbach and his South African co-driver Robert Howie were a virtual ninth on the opening section to the original PC1 and moved up to 13th overall and maintained a similar position to the stage finish.
The Dutch crew of Erik van Loon and Wouter Rosegaar also climbed a place to 18th in the general classification on the opening section and reached Salta in 17th overall after passing the German driver Stephan Schott over the closing kilometres.
Alejandro Yacopini and Daniel Merlo completed the last competitive section of this year’s Dakar in Bolivia in 21st overall and crossed the border into their native Argentina in a similar position in the rankings.
The Chinese crew of He Zhitao and Kai Zhao remain on track to fulfil their goal of finishing the Dakar in a Boundless Yong Racing Toyota run by Overdrive Racing. They were delayed before the special this morning when a road collapsed after recent inclement weather in the region.
Additional support for Overdrive Racing comes from Power Electronics and Kappa clothing.
TODAY AND TOMORROW
Recent rainfall again forced rally officials to modify the route of the eighth stage between Uyuni and Salta and reduce the competitive distance by around 73km. The stage began on the Altiplano after a short liaison and the first section was stopped at the original PC1 point, after 171km. The liaison across the border into Argentina was extended to 176km to the start of a second stage of around 248km at Piscuno. Crews then took to the originally planned final liaison of 350km to the overnight halt in Salta, a city located in the Lerma Valley at 1,152 metres above sea level in the foothills of the Andes and the northwest of the country.
The longest day of the entire event will take crews from Salta to Chilecito on Wednesday. In a route of 977km, what race officials have termed the ‘Super Belén’ stage will run for 406km and feature tricky navigation, much higher temperatures at lower altitude and numerous demanding off-road sections.
WHAT THEY SAID:
JOAN ROMA – Car 305
“It really wasn’t a good day for me personally. During the rest day, our assistance team worked on the car, but the changes haven’t had the impact that we wanted. We were able to see on the neutralised section and on the second part of the special that it was better. But, for me and Giniel, we’re lacking power at altitude. There are still two difficult days and a lot can happen. We’re driving as best we can. We could always take more risks, but we wouldn’t feel safe any more.”