Orlando Terranova’s chances to win the 2015 Dakar Rally were effectively finished in Stage 4, when he suffered costly suspension damage on his Mini after hitting a rock.
But the Argentine racer, who won Stages 1 and 3 before his disaster, remains an ever-present threat. He hammered home that point again on Saturday with his third win of the 2015 Dakar in Stage 7 (Iquique, Chile to Uyuni, Bolivia).
The 321-kilometer special stage saw Terranova and the car competitors race at more than 11,000 feet above sea level in what was the first part of a “marathon” stage, where drivers cannot call upon assistance teams for help.
Terranova secured the lead over impressive rookie Yazeed Alrajhi past the halfway point of the stage. He would continue to build the gap out as the stage continued on before winning over the Saudi by 2 minutes, 20 seconds.
“It was really difficult. Tough. Complicated. But we’ve made it,” said Terranova. “Now we’ll try and bring the car to Chile [Sunday], so our crew can take care of it.
“We’re getting better, but we need to work hard to avoid mistakes, and next year we’ll be stronger.”
As for Alrajhi, he was counting his blessings after he and co-driver Timo Gottschalk overcame a potential threat to their hopes on the climb into Bolivia.
“We’re lucky to be here. I didn’t want to take any risks, but we had a small alert when we forded the water and our filter got a bit wet, so it started to make a strange noise,” Alrajhi explained.
“It happened after about 100 kilometers. Then the filter dried up a bit and we were able to continue attacking. It’s no big deal – my co-driver is an outstanding mechanic and he’ll fix it. I’m still in the mix. I haven’t driven 10,000 kilometers for kicks and giggles!”
Bernhard Ten Brinke finished third on Saturday at just eight seconds behind Alrajhi. A pair of Mini pilots, Krzysztof Holowczyc and defending Dakar champ Nani Roma, rounded out the Top 5.
Giniel de Villiers was able to make up ground on overall category leader Nasser Al-Attiyah. The two men were sixth and seventh respectively on Saturday, but the South African peeled almost three minutes off of the Qatari in the stage.
De Villiers has now closed to eight minutes, 14 seconds behind Al-Attiyah for the top spot on an afternoon where they both had to race at less than optimal health due to the altitude.
“I’ve got quite a headache too… The altitude didn’t make it easy and, furthermore, it was a tricky stage where you had to be focused,” de Villiers said. “We managed to catch Nasser after roughly 150 kilometers, and then he made a mistake and we overtook him. We then opened the way and we made three or four mistakes, but we got back on track before he caught up with us.”
Al-Attiyah was also dealing with the altitude’s effects.
“I had to stop three times to vomit and I had a terrible headache every time we went over a bump,” he said. “I’ve lost some time, but it’s no big deal. We don’t need to push our limits.
“The car is in good condition, so we’re only going to change the tires, check a few things and then go get a rest. First, I’ll go see the medical service for a check-up.”
Meanwhile, Robby Gordon continued his solid work as of late with a ninth-place showing on Saturday (+ 10:48), his third consecutive Top-10 run.
Gordon ran fifth at the first check point along the route but an apparent navigational error cost him some time. He fell out of the Top 15, but battled back up to ninth at the final way point less than 40 km from the finish and held steady to the end.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 7 highlights on Sunday morning at 6 a.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 7 – Iquique, Chile to Uyuni, Bolivia)
1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 23hrs, 11mins, 50secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 8mins, 14secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 21mins, 16secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 54mins, 2secs
5. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 57mins, 3secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 1hr, 15mins, 11secs
7. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 1hr, 37mins, 50secs
8. 302-Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot), + 1hr, 50mins, 36secs
9. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 1hr, 58mins, 32secs
10. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), + 2hrs, 10mins, 45secs
23. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 5hrs, 48mins, 31secs