Mini driver Nani Roma retained his lead in the overall standings of the 2014 Dakar Rally after Friday’s sixth stage, a 400km timed run from Tucuman to Salta in Argentina and Saturday’s rest day, while defending champion, veteran Stephane Peterhansel, charged up through the ranks and leading South African Giniel de Villiers consolidated his fourth position overall.
But the day was overshadowed by the loss of Belgian rider Eric Palante, 50, who had crashed his Honda in Stage 4 on Wednesday and had to be towed in.
The medics treated his injured hand and his crew repaired the Honda but, before he set off to the start of the gruelling 911km Stage 5 from Chilecito to Tucuman on Thursday morning the father of five noted on his website: “A very long stage of suffering is ahead."
Unsurprisingly, he did not make good time; officials replenished his water during the afternoon but, when he didn’t make it to the end of the timed section on Thursday evening, they sent a service truck back along the route to find him, although he had not activated his emergency signal.
Organisers said his lifeless body was found at the 143km mark at about 8.30 on Friday morning; officials offered few details, saying the cause of death was being investigated.
This was Palante’s 11th Dakar Rally; it had always been his goal to win the amateur trophy for motorcycles. Organiser Etienne Lavigne said: "He knew the race very well, and over the years his enthusiastic but serious approach had made him one of the pillars of the rally.”
Palante would have turned 51 on 21 January; instead he became the 23rd competitor in 36 editions to die on the Dakar Rally.
PETERHANSEL ON THE CHARGE
Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel started Friday in the best way possible; thanks to one-hour penalties imposed on SMG buggy driver Carlos Sainz and Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini) overnight the Frenchman made up one place on the overall standings before he even started his Mini’s engine.
That gave him just the boost he needed to complete the timed section in 2hrs 42min58, almost three minutes ahead Al-Attiyah, with their Mini team mate, local hero Orlando Terranova third and leading South African Giniel de Villiers fourth in the works Toyota Hilux V8, six minutes behind the leader and just seconds ahead of Sainz and Roma.
Roma retained his commanding 30 minute overall lead, however, ahead of Terranova, who has shown remarkable composure in the face of intense pressure from some of rallying’s biggest names, Peterhansel and De Villiers.
Argentinian driver Lucio Alvarez showed again that when the Team Ford Ranger is running properly it will run with the best, finishing the stage 14th, only 18 minutes adrift, and moving up four places to 45th overall.
Dakar rookie Leeroy Poulter had another good day in the office to come home 26th, 34 minutes off the pace, but nearly two minutes ahead of Thomas Rundle in the ex-Giniel de Villiers Toyota Hilux.
French rider Alain Duclos, riding a Sherco, won his first Dakar Rally stage for eight years, beating overall motorcycle leader Marc Coma (KTM) by just 75 seconds after a 400km timed run from Tucuman to Salta in Argentina.
Duclos’s last win on the Dakar came in 2006 in Bamako, Mali, when the rally was still run in Africa.
“Today, it was my type of terrain,” he said. We’ve got over the worst over the past few days and the rest day has arrived at the right time - it couldn’t be better timed.”
After six stages Duclos was third overall, more than an hour behind three-times former winner Coma.
Joan Barreda Bort, on a Honda, finished fourth on Friday but held on to second in the overall standings, 42min17 behind Coma.
Leading South African motorcycle competitor Riaan van Niekerk came in 13th, 13 minutes behind Duclos, making up another place to 14th overall, after starting 27th in Rosario on 6 January.
Brett Cummings made up three places to 29th overall, with a steady ride to 39th on the final stage before Saturday’s rest day. Cummings however, as a Malle class rider, has to do all his own work on the bike, and will spend the ‘rest day’ ensuring that his Honda is ready for the next seven stages.
RESULTS – CARS: Stage 6
1 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini - 2hrs 42min58
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +2min43
3 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Mini +5min20
4 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) +6min06
5 Carlos Sainz (Spain) SMG +6min31
6 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini +6min36
7 Vladimir Yasilyev (Russia) Mini +12min02
8 Krysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +12min34
9 Federico Villagra (Argentina) Mini +12min53
10 Christian Lavieille (France) Haval +13min01
14 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +18min05
26 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +34min17
28 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +35min54
RESULTS – CARS: Overall after Stage 6
1 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini - 22hrs 11min28
2 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Minii +30min30
3 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +33min23
4 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +40min54
5 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +1hr 22min35
6 Carlos Sainz (Spain) SMG +1hr 59min38
7 Marek Dabrowski (Poland) Toyota +1hr 59min39
8 Krysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +2hrs 28min57
9 Adam Malysz (Poland) Toyota +2hrs 43min15
10 Christian Lavieille (France) Haval +2hrs 48min15
20 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +5hrs 43min17
29 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +7hrs 05min26
45 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +12hrs 47min28
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Stage 6
1 Alain Duclos (France) Sherco - 4hrs 21min34
2 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM +1min15
3 Michael Metge (France) Yamaha +1min49
4 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda +2min22
5 Cyril Despres (France) Yamaha +2min55
6 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +4min21
7 Stefan Svitko (Slovakia) KTM +7min46
8 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +8min12
9 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +10min26
10 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Speedbrain) +11min13
13 Riaan Van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +13min25
39 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +46min59
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Overall after Stage 5
1 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM - 23hrs 08min00
2 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda +42min17
3 Alain Duclos (France) Sherco - 1hr 00min58
4 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +1hr 08min09
5 Jeremias Israel Esquerre (Chile) Speedbrain) +1hr 33min28
6 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +1hr 43min08
7 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +1hr 49min59
8 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +2hrs 09min24
9 David Casteu (France) KTM +2hrs 12min05
10 Daniel Gouet (Chile) Honda +2hrs 17min26
14 Riaan Van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +3hrs 23min07
29 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +6hrs 45min45