Stéphane Peterhansel finally took his first stage win of the 2021 Dakar Rally as Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz both suffered dramas in the Neom-Neom loop.
Peterhansel’s 48th career car stage victory came at the expense of SRT Racing’s Mathieu Serradori, whose stunning performance on the second loop stage of the event came to an agonizing halt just before waypoint 11, just 46 miles from the finish.
“We knew that this stage was going to be very long and there were a lot of rocks at the beginning [of the stage],” Peterhansel reflected.
“It was a real Dakar stage, a bit like the past in Africa. We didn’t go on full attack because we knew the risk of puncturing. We passed Sainz and Nasser who punctured and then took it a bit slower to get the navigation right.”
There was more misery for Peterhansel’s main rivals as Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Al-Attiyah was slowed by three punctures during the 288-mile test. With just one spare left, the Qatari and co-driver Mathieu Baumel could not afford to push their Hilux any harder and dropped 12 minutes to Peterhansel’s X-raid Mini.
Defending Dakar winner Sainz also suffered a puncture early on in the stage and was then forced to stop and make repairs to the brakes on his X-raid buggy, shipping over 20 minutes.
Starting on the banks of the Red Sea in the north of Saudi Arabia, Al-Attiyah was the first to hit the road and held a six-second margin over Peterhansel at the first waypoint.
Peterhansel then moved in front at the second – after 40 miles – by eight seconds before Al-Attiyah punctured before the fifth waypoint.
Sainz had also been in touch after 40 miles, just 10 seconds in arrears but dropped to five minutes behind at the same time as Al-Attiyah. The Spaniard then fell out of contention for good at the sixth waypoint.
It was therefore up to Serradori and co-driver Fabian Lurquin to take the fight to Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger in their Century CR6.
Serradori, whose only Dakar stage victory to date came on the Wadi Ad-Dawasir loop last year, made the most of his road position of 26th to move ahead of Peterhansel by the ninth waypoint.
The Frenchman extended his gap at the front to over two minutes but came to a halt in the closing stages of the test.
It was the latest in a series of misfortunes for Serradori who had been classified as high as third overall during the opening week of the rally.
Since then, a navigational error dropped him several minutes on stage four, before mechanical problems beset the Century on stages five and six.
Al-Attiyah was Peterhansel’s closest challenger, exactly 12 minutes behind while TGR team-mate Giniel de Villiers recorded his best stage performance since winning stage five, with the third quickest time.
Stage six winner Yazeed Al Rajhi was fourth fastest, just 19 seconds further back from de Villiers, while Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry brought their Century Racing CR6 home fifth fastest.
Martin Prokop was sixth in his Orlen Team Ford Raptor RS, ahead of the pair of Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008DKRs of Cyril Desprès and Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.
Having been prioritized by his Bahrain Raid Xtreme team courtesy of Sébastien Loeb’s retirement on Monday, Nani Roma was 10th in his BRX Hunter, behind Benediktas Vanagas. Sainz ended up 11th in the stage.
In the overall classification, Peterhansel’s lead had ballooned to 17m50s over Al-Attiyah, with Sainz now over an hour back in third.
Jakub Przygónski, who finished the stage 37 minutes behind Peterhansel, remains fourth, ahead of Roma and Al Qassimi.
X-raid Team’s Vladimir Vasilyev is seventh ahead of Prokop and de Villiers, with Christian Lavieille 10th in his Optimus.
Third consecutive stage win for Lopez Contardo in SSVs
Francisco Lopez Contardo move back into the lead of the overall SSV classification as Austin Jones lost over half an hour on stage nine. The Chilean took the lead of the stage after waypoint nine and now leads Jones by 12 minutes heading into the final three stages of the rally.
In the T3 class, Red Bull Off-Road Junior’s Seth Quintero, who had been running second overall in SSV, lost more than five hours after his OT3 ground to a halt with mechanical trouble. The American teenager is now out of victory contention, with the Dakar Experience class Quintero’s likely path to the finish should his team manage to repair his car.
Stage 9 (Neom – Neom) result
1 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 2h56m56s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +12m00s
3 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro Bravo (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +12m19s
4 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +12m44s
5 Brian Baragwanath/Taye Perry (Century Racing CR6) +13m51s
6 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team Ford) +16m37s
7 Cyril Despres/Mike Horn (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +18m45s
8 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +19m40s
9 Benediktas Vanagas/Filipe Palmeiro (Toyota Gazoo Racing Baltics) +19m56s
10 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +21m39s
11 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +22m30s
Overall classification after Stage 9
1 Peterhansel/Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 34h26m16ss
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +17m50s
3 Sainz/Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +1h02m25s
4 Przygónski/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +2h16m30s
5 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +2h42m38s
6 Al Qassimi/Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +3h01m13s
7 Vasilyev/Tsyro (X-raid Mini JCW) +3h10m17s
8 Prokop/Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team Ford) +3h36m01s
9 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +3h40m09s
10 Lavieille/Garcin (MD Rally Sport Optimus) +4h10m32s