Fog was the first problem that the 211 remaining entrants in the Dakar Rally had to face on the ninth stage. However, luckily (or unfortunately depending on your appetite for chaos) the organisers stepped in shortening the stage to only 170km from its original 338. That left the bikes, cars, quads and trucks facing a sprint almost entirely though sand dunes, the two-wheeled racers starting 10 or 20 at a time as they headed out into the desert.
The short stage and the mass start saw a predictably close race for the bikes, with Dutchman Frans Verhoeven (who actually started in the second wave) leading after the short dash to 30km, the fastest 11 riders covered by less than a minute.
But the unforgiving dunes and the tight racing meant even the smallest error or the shortest delay could change the standings and Verhoeven lost over six minutes before the stages one and only remaining Control Point at 117km, dropping to ninth fastest, one place ahead of American Jonah Street who was briefly fourth at 71km.
But not even the shortened stage, sand dunes, and starting waves could stop the stage from becoming another chapter in the war of Cyril Despres versus Marc Coma.
Despres inherited the lead at 117km, Coma four seconds behind. The gap was only one second at 135 before Coma was able to overhaul the Frenchman to lead, again by four seconds, at the finish line to take his third stage win of the event.
Yesterday’s stage winner Francisco Lopez Contardo was third fastest ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter, the Norwegian still Despres’ closest challenger in the overall standings.
It was another VW victory in the car race, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah leading all stage for his third victory of this year’s Dakar. He was nearly six minutes faster than Carlos Sainz, cutting the double World Rally champion’s overall lead to only eight minutes in the process. Giniel De Villiers completed another VW podium sweep, with Guerlain Chicherit the fastest BMW in fourth, ten minutes down.
Robby Gordon’s Hummer suffered another day of troubles and delays, even on a day where the stage should have suited the H3 buggy run by the Californian’s own squad. He finished the stage twelfth 39 minutes behind.
There were also more delays of Stephane Peterhansel, who got stuck in the sand after 95km and lost over 17 minutes.
That delay (and Al-Attiyah’s pace) presented Russian Vladimir Chagin with an opportunity to take the outright record for stage wins, and as the trucks started the stage it looked like The Tsar would take his 55th stage. He led his Kamaz teammate Firdaus Kabirov through the first two timing points.
But when the first trucks reached 117km it was Kabirov who led, now with a six minute lead over Chagin, and though Chagin pulled the margin back to four minutes both record chasers remain on 54 stage wins.
Christophe Declerck won his first stage of the event aboard his Polaris quad, beating the Patronelli brothers by less than two minutes, but all three finished 20 minutes clear of fourth place Sebastian Halpern.
Stage Nine Results:
1. Marc Coma (KTM) 2h12:30
2. Cyril Despres (KTM) +0h00:04
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +0h01:14
4. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +0h01:23
5. Alain Duclos (KTM) +0h03:15
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) 1h59:28
2. Carlos Sainz (VW) +0h05:59
3. Giniel De Villiers (VW) +0h07:38
4. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +0h10:13
5. Mark Miller (VW) +0h10:48
1. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) 2h55:30
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h01:33
3. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) +0h01:47
4. Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0h22:23
5. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +0h27:52
1. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) 2h32:20
2. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) +0h04:41
3. Joseph Adua (Iveco) +0h14:40
4. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +1h10:10
5. Wulfert Van Ginkel (Ginaf) +1h23:37
Overall Results After Stage Nine :
1. Cyril Despres (KTM)35h58:55
2. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM) +1h21:50
3. Francisco Lopez Contardo (Aprilia) +1h25:31
4. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) +1h28:44
5. Alain Duclos (KTM) +1h55:40
1. Carlos Sainz (VW) 33h33:40
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0h08:36
3. Mark Miller (VW) +0h27:17
4. Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +2h13:52
5. Guerlain Chicherit (BMW) +2h28:27
1. Marcos Patronelli (Yamaha) 45h23:39
2. Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +2h23:07
3. Juan Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha) +4h20:03
4. Christophe Declerck (Polaris) +6h11:18
5. Rafal Sonik (Yamaha) +6h20:11
1. Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) 35h47:49
2. Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +1h11:31
3. Marcel Van Vliet (Ginaf) +8h21:13
4. Martin Macik (Liaz) +10h07:25
5. Wulfert Van Ginkel (Ginaf) +12:28:38