In the absence of the bikes opening the way following the cancellation of their stage in homage to Paulo Gonçalves, the usual leading lights of the car category had a difficult time with navigation. This allowed new names to come to the fore in the classification of the stage, which was won by a devilishly fast amateur driver, Mathieu Serradori.
Wadi, the valley in Arabic, is a fairly good way to describe the stage in which the cars, SSVs and trucks took part today. The crews did not get to see much relief, apart from around one hundred kilometres on the Wajid plateau where several impressive canyons provided variation from the pleasure of driving among the dunes. Indeed, for most of the stage, all that changed was the shades of the sand for the competitors on the Dakar: ochre, orange, mustard yellow or light beige depending on their position in relation to the sun. Following a fast, straight portion over the first fifty kilometres, they had to overcome a sequence of small chains of dunes before reaching the finishing line. In this domain, the usual specialists were not troubled.
Although he got stuck in the sand in the first kilometres of yesterday’s special, Mathieu Serradori gave a perfect reaction on stage 8 with a genuine demonstration. The former biker took advantage of the tracks made by Carlos Sainz, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel, who lost time navigating, to put in a perfect performance and taste victory 4 minutes ahead of surely a future grandee in the category: Fernando Alonso. Mitchell Guthrie is also probably the future of the SSV discipline, but the 50-hour penalty applied for recovering the engine of Cyril Despres means that he is deprived of a second stage victory. Reinaldo Varela therefore won in Wadi Al-Dawasir, whilst Chaleco López had plenty to cheer about in the general standings by making up half the time between himself and rally leader Casey Currie. In the truck race, the general standings are still dominated by Andrey Karginov, thanks to the third successive stage victory of the Kamaz driver who is head and shoulders above his rivals in Saudi Arabia..
Performance of the day
With second place in Wadi Al-Dawasir despite a puncture, Fernando Alonso has obtained his best result on the Dakar after 8 stages. The two-time Formula 1 World Champion has adapted quickly to his new discipline, much like he did in endurance racing with two victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours race and the title of World Champion in the category. Rally-raids are, nevertheless, a completely different matter, though one increasingly more appreciated by the Spaniard, who may not have to wait too long before picking up his first taste of success on the Dakar. And what about becoming a pretender for the title in the years to come?
A crushing blow
Following second place overall last year for his first participation in the SSV race after 11 Dakar rallies on a bike, Gerard Farrés had high hopes for the first Dakar in Saudi Arabia. However, the rally soon became difficult for the Spanish driver, who found himself out of the reckoning for the general standings despite two fine stage victories. The 400 kilometres of the day’s special threw another spanner in the works of his rally, following a crash with another competitor which pushed him even further down in the classification. Farrés will have to console himself with the top two places in the general standings occupied by his South Racing team-mates…
Stat of the day
32: Mathieu Serradori, the winner of the stage in the car race, is first and foremost the manager of a company specialised in electricity… who spends his holidays on the Dakar. He is the first amateur driver to beat the professional drivers and teams for 32 years. The last competitor to achieve a similar feat was Belgian garage owner Guy Deladrière, who achieved the best time in Senegal on the penultimate special on the Dakar 1988.
Quote of the day
Mathieu Serradori: “I’m absolutely delighted. It’s a wonderful story. Yesterday’s stage was very complicated – we made a mistake and paid a heavy price. This morning, we pulled our socks up and left everyone behind us. I’d like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I’m a former biker. It’s not easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there are two fighters in the car and I’m very happy with this result”.
Story and photos courtesy of Dakar.com