El Salvador, Chile - Not even a tenacious storming third on the longest stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally was enough to prevent two of the Minis from demoting Top South African contender Giniel de Villiers and his Toyota Hilux V8 to fifth overall on Thursday, the last day of this year's race that is likely to see any real racing.
De Villiers completed the 749km Stage 11 from Antofagasta to El Salvador in Chile in 6hrs 10min38, just three minutes behind overall leader Nani Roma, who was second on Thursday, and 12 minutes behind stage winner Orlando Terranova, but wound up fifth overall, almost 76 minutes off the leader and 12min18 behind Terranova in fourth.
Stephane Peterhansel's hopes of a 12th Dakar Rally title were crushed on Thursday, however, when BMW instigated team orders to ensure a podium sweep, a decision that was blasted by organsiers as well as the champion-elect.
Peterhansel, who has six motorcycle triumphs and five wins on four wheels in the race, finished Stage 11 fourth, 14min14 behind stage winner Orlando Terranova.
But the Dakar veteran’s Mini team mate and overall leader, Nani Roma, was second on the day, a little more than three minutes ahead of Peterhansel.
That put Roma in the overall lead by 5min32 with just two stages to race.
“The game is over.”
Peterhansel, who failed to disguise his frustration at BMW's decision, said: “We've had a good laugh and enjoyed ourselves, but the team has asked us to not take any more risks.
“It's a bit frustrating because we've done most of the hard work. But, if BMW wants to have three Minis on the podium, at the speed at which we are driving out in front, it's easy to crash a car or even two in just one day.
“We know that this can happen, but I didn't think that they would do it.”
Race director Etienne Lavigne said he was “a little shocked” by Mini's team orders which should see Roma, Peterhansel and Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah take the top three places on the podium.
“We haven't been informed of this decision by the team manager of Mini,” he said, “but we are disappointed, clearly, because it is not in the spirit of the competition. It's a little shocking. It's not fair.
“If I was being mean, I would say to Mini that they can collect the trophy immediately. Fighting without risk is triumph without glory.”
Even Roma, the champion-in-waiting, was embarrassed by BMW's decision.
“It's disappointing for Stephane, it's disrespectful. It's a bad decision that has been taken,” he said.
Team Ford Racing’s Lucio Alvarez claimed their second consecutive top 10 finish on the longest and toughest stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, coming in eighth on the daunting Stage 11 from Antofagasta to El Salvador in Chile.
The marathon 605km timed section threw at the competitors pretty much everything the Dakar Rally has in one day, including temperatures that topped 30 degrees, dirt roads, mine tracks and dry river beds, followed by 120km of sand in the arid Atacama Desert, including the famous Copiapo dunes.
After finishing ninth on Wednesday Alvarez made the most of an advantageous start position to power the Ranger through the early checkpoints in sixth, and maintained a strong pace through the afternoon in the sand, despite stopping to change a rear left puncture only 40km from the finish.
After spending more than six hours behind the wheel, he finished 35min38 behind stage winner Terranova’s Mini, moving up from 28th to 22nd overall. Of the 152 cars that started from Rosario 12 days before, only 49 were still running at the end of Stage 11.
Marc Coma, on a KTM, won his third stage of the 2014 event and now leads Joan Barreda Bort’s Honda by a comfortable 52min 36sec.
Barreda was fifth on the stage but saw his campaign to hunt down Coma hindered by losing all of his navigational instruments.
“It was a very long day,” Coma said. “I had a little fall at the start, but it wasn't serious.
“After that, I tried to maintain a good pace. The important thing is still being here in the race and also to be careful, because there is still one tough day left.”
Top South African rider Riaan van Niekerk (KTM) started the longest stage of the rally fairly slowly, but soon found his rhythm on a stage that was taken absolutely flat out for the most part – although he reached the end of the timed section, after more than seven hours in the saddle, with badly dented rims, tell-tale signs of a rough stage.
At this stage of the rally, Van Niekerk could not afford any navigational errors, so he spent the day making sure that he stuck to the road book and the cap.
“It’s time for me to up my game now,” he said, “and learn to navigate myself and go faster at the same time, it’s really difficult!”
Van Niekerk finished 13th on Thursday’s stage, only 23min29 off stage winner, KTM works Marc Coma.
The only other South African on two wheels, Dakar rookie Brett Cummings (Honda) finished 27th for the day and moved up one position to 29th overall.
RESULTS – CARS: Stage 11
1 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Mini - 5hrs 58min 00
2 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini +10min57
3 Giniel De Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +12min38
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +14min14
5 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +20min57
6 Ronan Chabot (France) SMG +30min18
7 Federico Villagra (Argentina) Mini +33min55
8 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +35min38
9 Krzysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +38min17
10 Vladimir Vasilyev (Russia) Mini +39min06
30 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +2hrs 28min00
50 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +5hrs 20min50
RESULTS – CARS: Overall after Stage 11
1 Nani Roma (Spain) Mini - 45hrs 01min54
2 Stephane Peterhansel (France) Mini +5min32
3 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Mini +56min01
4 Orlando Terranova (Argentina) Mini +1hr 03min39
5 Giniel de Villiers (South Africa) Toyota +1hr 15min57
6 Krzysztof Holowczyc (Poland) Mini +3hrs 44min51
7 Vladimir Vasilyev (Russia) Mini 6hrs 34min57
8 Federico Villagra (Argentina) Mini +7hr 53min55
9 Ronan Chabot (France) SMG +11hrs 24min49
10 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +15hrs 35min00
24 Lucio Alvarez (Argentina) Ford +15hrs 35min00
26 Thomas Rundle (South Africa) Toyota +16hrs 37min29
34 Leeroy Poulter (South Africa) Toyota +25hrs 09min19
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Stage 11
1 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM - 6hrs 36min08
2 Cyril Despres (France) Yamaha +2min51
3 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +5min28
4 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +5min53
5 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda +8min12
6 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +9min23
7 Juan Pedrero (Spain) Sherco +9min50
8 Stefan Svitko (Slovakia) KTM +13min25
9 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +14min40
10 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM +14min47
13 Riaan van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +20min38
27 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +1hr 08min48
RESULTS – MOTORCYCLES: Overall after Stage 11
1 Marc Coma (Spain) KTM - 48hrs 24min41
2 Joan Barreda Bort (Spain) Honda +52min36
3 Jordi Viladoms (Spain) KTM +2hrs 07min56
4 Olivier Pain (France) Yamaha +2hrs 21min40
5 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Honda +2hrs 30min35
6 Cyril Despres (France) Yamaha +2hrs 31min18
7 Kuba Przygonski (Poland) KTM +2hrs 43min55
8 Daniel Gouet (Chile) Honda +3hrs 24min35
9 Stefan Svitko (Slovakia) KTM +3hrs 46min32
10 Ivan Jakes (Slovakia) KTM) +4hrs 27min36
12 Riaan van Niekerk (South Africa) KTM +4hrs 38min20
29 Brett Cummings (South Africa) Honda +10hrs 28min02