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Dakar Rally: Kevin Benavides, Stephane Peterhansel in lead, competitors enjoy rest day

While the rest day at the Dakar Rally on Friday meant the drivers and riders could take a breather from tackling the tough terrain out there, there was work to do as well -- from team meetings to the meticulous task of going through the road map.

other sports Updated: Jan 13, 2018 11:02 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, La Paz (Bolivia)
Dakar Rally 2018,Kevin Benavides,Stephane Peterhansel
Fans greet Dakar Rally cars segment overall leader, Peugeot's Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean Paul Cottret, as they arrive in La Paz at the end of Stage 6 on Thursday.(AFP)

After covering more than 3000 km in six days with harsh weather constantly battering the will and body, mind can go numb. But losing focus is not an option for Dakar Rally competitors.

The riders and drivers arrived in La Paz on Thursday -- after surviving the Peruvian deserts which forced more than 70 competitors to withdraw -- for the only ‘rest’ day in the 14-stage rally. For the team members, however, the term ‘rest’ is very subjective.

“The competitors will again gather at the bivouac in less than 24 hours. In between, we will have team meetings and briefing. Sometimes the term ‘rest’ means sleeping for a few hours on a good bed. That’s it. Most of the rest day goes in understanding the new road map,” said Wolfgang Fisher, Hero MotoSports’ team manager.

The Indian team had an early shock in Dakar 2018 when Joaquim Rodrigues got injured right in the first stage. Their other two riders, Oriol Mena and CS Santosh, were placed 21st and 51st respectively after Thursday.

“I have had my share of highs and lows. I featured in top 15 after the first stage. Then in the third stage my fuel finished early due to a loose cap, and on stage 4 I suffered a crash. At that moment I felt like the journey was over. But then I continued. These things keep coming back to your mind. But the only way to move forward to look ahead,” Santosh, the only Indian left in the competition, said.

He was seen limping after the sixth stage got over but asserted that it was a ‘nothing serious’. His compatriot Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team’s KP Aravind, however, was not so lucky and broke his ankle.

Some reputed names like defending champions Sam Sunderland withdrew due to a back injury, so did former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas. Sebastien Loeb - a nine-time world rally champion – also did not finish after his co-driver got injured.

Peterhansel, Benavides consolidate lead

Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel led the racers into Bolivia (cars segment) but Peugeot teammate Carlos Sainz had trimmed the Frenchman’s lead with his first stage win of this year’s event.

Peterhansel ended the sixth stage from the Peruvian city of Arequipa to La Paz with a 27-minute advantage over the Spaniard, a two-times world rally champion and father of the Formula One driver with the same name.

Meanwhile in the motorbikes segment, Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, on a Honda, has a 1min 57sec lead over French Yamaha rider Adrien Van Beveren in the overall standings.

Tough road ahead.

For the next four days, the competitors will have to pass through the high terrains of Bolivia with elevation ranging from 3800m to 4800m. The action will be fast and there will be mountain dunes too.

Then Dakar rally will move to Argentina for the final part of the competition. Here the riders will not only get high altitudes but sand dunes too. The temperature can hover around 45 degree Celsius. And all this would happen after 10 days of gruelling ride testing the skills of even the veterans.

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 09:46 IST