by M.C. – photo: dakar.com | Whatever happens over this couple of days there is one sure certainty; this Saturday the 20th of January is the last stage of Dakar Rally and we will have a winner for each category at the Argentinian city of Cordoba. In the most popular categories (cars and bikes), two drivers have the greatest chances of winning: the Spaniard Carlos Sainz with Team Peugeot in cars and the Austrian Matthias Walkner with KTM Factory Team, in motorbikes. Both are facing the last stretch of the hardest rally in the world at a considerable distance from their rivals.
Sainz, very close to his second title
Sainz’s main rival is his very own team mate and Dakar legend Monsieur Dakar, Stephen Peterhansel, who is an hour away (+44’41’’). Behind him the three Toyotas are hoping for a chance to move forward: The Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, third (+1h05’55”), the Dutch Bernhard Ten Brinke, fourth, (+1h17’21”) and the South African Giniel De Villiers, fifth (+1h26’31”). After an offensive first stage which took him to the lead, Carlos Sainz is following a different strategy in the second half of the competition, concentrating on keeping his distance until Cordoba. He has also put behind the disagreement with quad driver Kees Koolen, who accused him of running him over. After being penalised with ten minutes, judges finally sided with Sainz. The Spaniard is now very close to his second title but at the Dakar Rally nothing is certain until you cross the finish line.
Walkner, very close to getting another title for KTM
In motorbikes Walkner has everything going for him to climb up to the top of the podium in this his fourth Dakar Rally, particularly after Adrien Van Beveren’s (Yamaha Racing) retirement in stage 10 after suffering a serious accident at just three kilometres from the finish line while at the lead and being one of the favourites in his category. The Austrian driver from KTM Factory Team is ahead of Argentinian Kevin Benavides from Honda Team by 32 minutes and of Australian Toby Price (KTM) by over 39. Also in his favour was the final withdrawal of Spaniard Joan Barreda who had to say goodbye at stage 11 after carrying and injury over several stages.
So it just rests to see what will happen in stage 13 (stage 12 was cancelled for motorbikes due to the adverse and risky weather conditions) and the final stage on Saturday… Could the die be cast already? Perhaps, but at this, the hardest edition of the South American Dakar, anything can happen…