For the fourth consecutive time, a MINI ALL4 Racing proved to be the fastest vehicle of the day. In the first real dune stage of the 2015 Dakar, Qatar Rally Team driver Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and his navigator Mathieu Baumel (FRA) celebrated their second stage win, followed by Nani Roma (ESP) and Michel Périn (FRA) who gave the Monster Energy Rally Raid Team second place. With this result, the pairing battled its way back up to the topflight.
Just as on day two, the Qatar Rally Team again proved to be the stage winner on day four. The dunes – a terrain that suits Al-Attiyah particularly well – proved to be crucial. “The first section of today’s special stage was really fast and all the cars were racing at the virtually same speed. But then, the route got rocky and we backed off to not risk a puncture,” revealed Al-Attiyah. “Our plan worked and afterwards, in the dunes, we really went for it and won the stage, in the end.”
Following his bad luck in the first stage and his battle up from the back end of the field afterwards, Roma made it back to the topflight, today. by finishing second. “Although things didn’t run that well for us, at the beginning,” admitted the Catalan. “But in the closing stages I was able to take the MINI to its very limit and set a fast overall time.”
De Villiers continued to maintain his position at the pointy end of the field, finishing third on stage in the Hilux, 2min 57 behind Al-Attiyah. “The first part wasn’t that difficult, but we tried to attack throughout the part with dunes, which requires a laserlike focus. We didn’t take any risks at all in the rocky parts because a flat tyre costs you loads of time. We’ve usually had good stages in Chile, it’s very demanding and usually interesting. Everything’s going fine, we need to stay on this path.”
Stéphane Peterhansel held the lead at CP5, but he let victory slip away after jumping over two metres high and suffering a flat tyre. However, he proved Peugeot is competitive by finishing 5′48″ behind the winner. Teammate Carlos Sainz was not as lucky. Forced to stop for several hours due to a mechanical problem a mere 30 km into the special, he no longer is in a position to challenge for the overall win. Orlando Terranova, who started today’s stage in third place, also saw his dreams go up in smoke after having to stop at km 52 of a stage which put paid to the plans of several favourites. Robby Gordon also lost over an hour between Chilecito and Copiapó.
Stage four was a great one for the Olholm from the Coconut Racing Team. Starting back in the field, Geoff and Edouard managed to finish the stage in 16th position, only 23 minutes behind the time set by leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah. Their effort has moved them into 36th overall after the stage.
It was a tough day for Australia’s leading moto racer, Toby Price. Who became lost and had to find his way back through the key waypoints of the course and lost over 20 minutes in the process, finishing 17th on stage. “Today was really tough, the navigation was hard work. First thing in the morning I got lost following a large crest of a hill which I thought was on the right track which obviously wasn’t and really lost a lot of time. Like I said it was a tough day but in saying that it was a good learning curve for me, I knew today was going to be a struggle for me with how difficult stage 4 was today. All in all I’m here now at the finish of a really difficult stage and that’s what matters most. I’m Really looking forward to tomorrow and a fresh start.”
In the overall Auto standings, Al-Attiyah still is the Dakar leader, with his lead over Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers amounting to more than eight minutes. Behind him lies the surprising #325 Toyota of Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who once again charged full steam ahead to put himself on course for a podium spot at the end of his first Dakar.
Tomorrow, in the stage from Copiapo to Antofagasta, the crews will have to cover nearly 700 kilometres. The day will begin with a 174-kilometre liaison section, followed by a 458-kilometre special stage. The terrain mainly will feature hard terrain but the competitors also will have to cross several Fech-Fech fields. Afterwards, there will be another 65 kilometres to go to the finish line.