After Saturday’s rainy rest day in Salta, the bivouac’s dwellers woke up to muddy conditions to get the competition’s second week off to an interesting start. Salta is also the beginning of the line of the famous Train to the Clouds (Tren de la Nubes) which takes passengers through the Andes to the Chilean border at an altitude of more than 4,200 metres. The line features 29 bridges, 21 tunnels and 13 viaducts, and the two-way journey takes 17 hours.
Today’s 763km loop though the Salta region lasted only 4h43m28s for the stage’s winner Sainz whose second win of the event takes his score on the Dakar to a total of 27, placing him fourth in the record books, behind Vatanen (50), Peterhansel (30) and Ickx (29). “We went well,” he reported. The stage was very varied: narrow and twisty in places at the beginning, but then wider towards the end.”
High in the natural habitat of lamas and vicunas, the SMG Buggy driver succeeded in outpacing a train of no fewer than six Michelin-equipped Mini ALL4 Racings, their ranks led by Al-Attiyah (4m24s), ahead of team-mates Peterhansel, Roma, Holowczyc, Villagra and Vasilyev. In total, the day’s top 10 featured seven Minis, plus Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) and Bernhard Ten Brinke (Ford-HRX).
The leaderboard is still topped by Roma, but his closest threat is now Peterhansel who moved up a notch when Terranova took a 15-minute penalty for colliding with a biker. The Argentinean also dropped 18 minutes on the stage and has fallen back to fourth, behind South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers.
Monday’s journey will take car competitors across the Andes for the first Chilean stage of the 2014 Dakar 2014. The day begins with a 510km road section which climbs to almost 5,000 metres at the Paso de Jama, while the stage itself (302km) will finish near the mining town of Calama. Sainz will leave Salta at 5:15am, and the stage is due to start at 11:50am.
Leg 7 –Positions:
1, Sainz/Gottschalk (Buggy SMG), 4h43m28s. 2, Al-Attiyah/Cruz (Mini/Michelin), +4m24s. 3, Peterhansel/Cottret (Mini/Michelin), +7m4s. 4, Roma/Périn (Mini/Michelin), +8m56s. 5, Holowcyzc/Zhiltsov (Mini/Michelin), +10m51s. Etc.
Provisional overall classification:
1, Roma/Périn (Mini/Michelin), 27h3m52s. 2, Peterhansel/Cottret (Mini/Michelin), +31m31s. 3, De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota/Michelin), +48m23s. 4, Terranova/Fiuza (Mini/Michelin), +54m34s. 5, Al-Attiyah/Cruz (Mini/Michelin), +1h18m3s. Etc.