Lategan leads first Dakar stage despite ‘day from hell’

Image courtesy of Toyota Gazoo Racing

Lategan leads first Dakar stage despite ‘day from hell’

Off Road

Lategan leads first Dakar stage despite ‘day from hell’

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The Dakar Rally has a clear early leader in the car category in Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, but the Qatari knew Thursday’s fifth stage was likely to be a tough one for him after leading the way yesterday, since he would be starting first without tracks to follow. So it proved as Al-Attiyah finished an atypical eighth in the dunes around Riyadh today, while his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Henk Lategan took center stage with his first career stage victory.

The South African — who is out of the overall running himself, still 45m off his teammate’s lead, after a substantial delay yesterday when his Hilux broke a right-rear wheel hub — led home the Bahrain Extreme of Sebastien Loeb by 1m58s. The Frenchman, who stayed second overall, lopped 3m of Al-Attiyah’s admittedly still huge lead, cutting it to 35m10s.

“I still don’t believe it. I’m not sure what happened. We’ve honestly had a day from hell!” related Lategan. “We’ve had a proper, proper Dakar day. It started 10 kilometers from the start when my door broke. I was driving until the first control point with the door flapping open. I managed to solve that, I strapped myself in and couldn’t open the door. Then we had a puncture, so I had to climb out of the navigator’s door and change the puncture. So, we’ve had just the craziest day. I can’t actually believe that we have won the stage. It doesn’t make sense.

“The whole race has been really on top of the world and then right back down to earth. The Dakar has a way of keeping you humble, I think. Today was humbling and I can’t actually believe that we’ve won the stage. We’ve had some really bad luck. There have been some mistakes from our side from the beginning, so we’re basically completely out of the overall contention. I think we have to carry on like this and keep learning. I can feel every day that we are getting a little bit more confidence and starting to read the terrain a little bit better, which is something I really needed.”

In bikes, Italy’s Danilo Petrucci led the way by just 2s over Ross Branch after Toby Price’s pace-setting ride was washed away by a 6m time penalty for speeding. The overall order continues to be led by GasGas rider Sam Sunderlund, although the Briton’s margin over Austria’s Mattias Walkner’s Red Bull KTM was trimmed to 2m29s.

A solid day for the American riders was led by Ricky Brabec in fourth place, Mason Klein in sixth, Andrew Short in seventh and Skyler Howes in ninth. However, reigning Dakar champ Brabec is 16th overall, 48m27s behind, as the marathon approaches its midpoint.

Seth Quintero continued his strong form in the Light Prototype class, setting the pace once again with his Red Bull entry by over Francisco Lopez Contardo.

“Another win here on stage five. I’m very happy to be at the finishing line because it was a very rough stage,” related Quintero. “I had a couple of issues today, really just the power steering about 150km from the finish and then I was really just trying to bring it home. But I’m stoked with another win and hopefully we can keep clicking them off and break that record of nine wins in one Dakar!

Contardo stayed ahead overall in the class, though, now by 22m16s over Sweden’s Sebastian Erikkson.

America’s Austin Jones kept himself in overall contention in the SSV class with a fourth place today, 8m40s behind stage winner Rodrigo Luppi de Oliveira. Overall, Can-Am Factory South racer Jones trails de Oliveira by 4m27s.

MX-5 CUP | ROUND 9 – ROAD AMERICA

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