Chile’s Victor Gallegos thrust himself into the battle for quad supremacy between fellow Chilean Ignacio Casale and Poland’s Rafal Sonik in Tuesday’s Stage 9 of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Gallegos, who finished fifth in the category in his inaugural Dakar last year, defeated Sonik by more than 15 minutes on Tuesday to earn his first-ever Dakar stage win.
After his Top-5 overall finish in 2014, Gallegos hasn’t been as stout in his second go-round in the world’s toughest rally. Through nine stages this year, he has just two Top-5 finishes; at this point last year, he had collected five Top-5s already.
But Gallegos feels that he has shown how strong he truly is.
“It was a good stage with a good pace,” he said. “It’s the first stage where I haven’t had any mechanical problems…Last year, I finished the Dakar in fifth place and this year, my goal was to be among the leaders. I haven’t enjoyed a particularly favorable first half of the Dakar, but today in any case, I showed the pace that I am capable of.
“I’m all the happier with the day’s work seeing as I’m on a 450 cc quad whilst my rivals are riding 750 cc.”
As for the overall fight, Sonik has re-taken the lead once more after beating Casale (fourth on Tuesday) by almost 11 minutes. With four stages left in the 2015 Dakar, Sonik is now up on Casale by four minutes even.
A 1-minute, 29-second stage win for Ayrat Mardeev on Tuesday allowed him to continue leading the overall standings in the truck category.
But with four stages to go, it’s time to cue up the ‘Jaws’ music. Because Mardeev’s KAMAZ teammate, Eduard Nikolaev, continues to move closer to the top spot.
Nikolaev’s win in Monday’s Stage 8 allowed him to move up to third in the overall, and his runner-up finish on Tuesday to Mardeev has now propelled him to second on the big board at 14 minutes, 10 seconds back.
With five wins already in the 2015 Dakar, Nikolaev can easily tighten things up further in the final days. Mardeev may not be able to afford even the slightest stumble now.
Andrey Karginov, the defending Dakar truck champion, fell out of P2 overall after finishing fourth on Tuesday by 15 and a half minutes. What had been a five-minute gap to the leader Mardeev is now at almost 21 minutes. Time will tell if Tuesday proves to be the end of his title defense.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 9 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.