Price under pressure, good things come in threes for Al-Attiyah
January 16 th 2019 - 20:48 [GMT -5]
The loop around Pisco explored the Ica desert from an entirely new perspective. It started with an 80 km dune sector, followed by a series of coastal dunes separated by the Subida de los Burros ascent and, to cap it all, another sequence of dunes with three fearsome massifs in the final 100 kilometres —more than enough to throw sand in the gears of the top riders and drivers, as Adrien Van Beveren, Stéphane Peterhansel and Sébastien Loeb came to know.
The favourites let their next-to-last opportunity to finally break the deadlock in the motorbike race go to waste. The top riders started together, stayed together and crossed the finish line together, except for Yamaha's Adrien Van Beveren, who saw his hopes of a podium place in Lima dashed by an engine failure with 16 kilometres to go. The outsiders in the second wave, on the other hand, jumped on the opportunity, with Michael Metge claiming an impressive victory ahead of Daniel Nosiglia. Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah made sure there were no surprises in the car category and took his third stage win this year. The Qatari successfully navigated all the dangers of today's stage and now he just needs to wrap up his masterly cool-headed performance in Lima tomorrow. Another cool-headed competitor, Nicolás Cavigliasso, stayed out of the fight for the stage win for only the second time in the rally, leaving rising star Manuel Andújar to take the spoils and making sure he just needs to finish tomorrow to win the quad race. "Chaleco" López also consolidated his position ahead of the final S×S stage by finishing third today, 11 minutes behind Reinaldo Varela. It was the Brazilian's first triumph since the inaugural stage. Finally, Eduard Nikolayev got his mojo back at the best possible moment and reclaimed the overall lead in the truck classification from his Kamaz teammate Dmitry Sotnikov.
Performance of the day
Finally, the time has come! Throughout his first six participations in the Dakar, Michael Metge has had first-row tickets to other people's victories. After scouts saw him in the enduro championships, he was quickly recruited as a water carrier for top riders, including Cyril Despres at Yamaha and Joan Barreda at Honda. On several occasions, the man from Nîmes had got so close to glory that he could almost taste it, only to be denied at the last minute. Now racing in a leadership role for French maker Sherco, Metge capitalised on his advantageous starting position in the second wave this morning to beat the stars of the rally to the line. Welcome to the club.
A crushing blow
The stars have definitely not aligned for Stéphane Peterhansel in the 2019 Dakar. Standing fourth overall this morning after an unusual amount of errors that were only partly offset by two stage wins, the Mini driver still harboured hopes of finishing on the second step of the podium. In the end, his adventure came to an end on the dunes of Ica after co-driver David Castera hurt his back in a landing. Sébastien Loeb also struggled after breaking two gimbals on his Peugeot right when it looked like the stage had his name written all over it. The man from Alsace lost an hour and will have to settle for third place in Lima, a step or two below his original aspirations.
Stat of the day
1. The number of minutes between leader Toby Price and his closest rival, Pablo Quintanilla, in the general classification. The incredibly narrow difference after 5,182 km of racing promises an epic duel in the tenth and final stage from Pisco to Lima. It is an entirely different story in the other categories, where the leaders managed to build up a comfortable lead over their rivals as the nine stages went by. Nasser Al-Attiyah has a 51-minute margin over Nani Roma and can play it safe in the car category, while "Chaleco" López is heading into the final stage with almost an hour to spare over Gerard Farrés. Finally, with a comfortable lead of 1 h 40, Nicolás Cavigliasso will have ample time to take in the jaw-dropping Peruvian landscapes one last time before the end of the rally!
Quote of the day
"I'll give it my 100% to win the race"
Pablo Quintanilla: "Today was a mass start, so there was no chance to make a difference. I want to congratulate my friend Nacho Cornejo, who did a really good job, for all the hard work with the difficult navigation. […] It was difficult to navigate between valleys and dunes. But I'm happy to finish one more day and one more stage to go. Yeah, the race is really tight with Toby. It's been a really hard race, but I'm happy at the moment with the result and my performance, but for sure tomorrow I'll give it my 100% to win the race."