After Monday’s rest day, Stage 9 at the 45th edition of the Dakar Rally saw the bivouac finally move on from Riyadh after a prolonged stay due to adverse weather conditions. Beginning with a 108km liaison, the 359km special consisted of a little bit of everything, from dunes at the start to rocky trails and riverbeds as the race progressed into the southeast quarter of Saudi Arabia.
The overnight rain meant there were even some waterlogged sections, but despite this, it turned out to be the fastest stage of the rally so far, with less than an hour separating the top 30 finishers.
Portuguese Porém, competing in his fourth Dakar alongside his rookie Argentinean co-driver Sanz, immediately took a liking to the wet conditions. Starting from 14th, they passed the first waypoint in third and managed to keep up their superb pace to end the stage in fourth with a time of three hours, 39 minutes and 57s, less than two minutes behind the stage winners, to move up to 15th overall.
After creating history by winning Sunday’s Stage 8 in the T3 Lightweight Prototype class, which saw Yamaha become the first constructor to taste victory in both the Car and Bike categories at the Dakar Rally, the Portuguese crew of rookie Ferreira and the more experienced Palmeiro put in another strong performance.
Starting first, an early issue saw them drop down to 13th by Waypoint 1, but they fought back superbly to finish in sixth, just over a minute behind their teammates. While they will not be counted as official finishers at Dakar after failing to complete Stage 3, they aim to collect as many points as possible for the World Rally Raid Championship (W2RC), of which the Dakar counts as the first round of the 2023 season. After his famous stage victory, plus two further podiums so far at the rally, Ferreira and Palmeiro are currently fifth in the W2RC standings with 15 points.
Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA) again pulled off a solid drive to bring their X-raid developed YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype home in 17th after starting the stage in 28th, making up time in the general classification in the process. Dakar Legend Camelia Liparoti (ITA) and co-driver Xavier Blanco (SPA) kept up their excellent consistency to finish the stages less than six minutes further back in 21st, as the pairing that finished sixth overall in 2022 continued to claw back time against their rivals.
Winners of the 2022 Dakar Women’s Trophy, W2RC competitors Annett Fischer (DEU) and Annie Seel (SWE), showed true rally spirit as they sacrificed time to give spare parts to the legendary Dakar driver “El Matador”, Carlos Sainz, after the Spaniard experienced a crash. Despite losing over ten minutes helping out their fellow competitor, they still managed to finish the stage in 23rd and ensure they remained the leading all-female crew overall in the Car category.
The Chilean pairing of Ignacio Casale and Alvaro Leon were battling for the podium as they passed the fourth waypoint in fifth, but a minor technical issue saw them have to stop and make repairs. Determined not to lose too much time, they fought back from 35th to end the stage in 27th and maintain tenth position in the general classification as the leading Yamaha.
Stage 10 sees the X-raid Yamaha Supported Team crews head towards the Empty Quarter after a mammoth 467km liaison to the start of a short 114km special. Consisting mainly of the extreme dunes that the area is famous for, it will give the crews a taste of what to expect over the coming days. After finishing the special, they face a further 42km to the bivouac in Shaybah before switching into “Marathon” mode for Stages 11 & 12.