Ayrat Mardeev continues to keep his overall truck lead at double-digits with one stage remaining in the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Mardeev finished fifth in Friday’s penultimate Stage 12 from Termas de Rio Hondo to Rosario, Argentina – three spots and 1 minute, 32 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer, KAMAZ teammate Eduard Nikolaev (eighth on Friday).
With only 393 kilometers and a 174-km special to go on Saturday, Mardeev controls the Dakar by 12 minutes, 43 seconds over Nikolaev, who leads all truck drivers with six stage wins but looks as if he’ll run out of time in his pursuit of his fellow Russian.
It’s been feast or famine for Mardeev in his Dakar driving career – two retirements in 2012 and 2014 sandwiching a second-place finish overall in 2013.
That course seems poised to continue but this time, he’s set to reach the highest of highs provided he can avoid trouble in Saturday’s Stage 13.
Up front, Hans Stacey earned his second consecutive stage win and his third of the Dakar. It was a tight one though, as less than 30 seconds covered him, second-place Marcel Van Vliet, and third-place Gerard de Rooy.
Rafal Sonik can’t help but be a bit cautious as he appears to have his first Dakar championship in his hands with one day left.
Sonik finished fourth on Friday by a little more than 10 minutes back of winner Christophe Declerck, who picked up his second consecutive stage victory.
But while Declerck and everyone else can go nuts and fight for the stage win, Sonik must stay even-keeled as he rushes toward Buenos Aires.
“It was not stressful. It just required patience, because we could not overtake,” Sonik said of his afternoon. “It was so dusty and dangerous that patience pays, as you say.”
He also must stay on top of any potential problems with his quad that could ruin his Dakar.
Sonik mentioned on Friday that he had to replace his quad’s fuel link and valve the night before and also had “a small problem” in Friday’s liaison section.
So while he’s glad that the end is in sight, he’s not thinking about a party with his team just yet.
“…There is a reason to be superstitious, but there is a reason to feel very happy about being closer to the finishing line,” he said. “It’s like a [soccer] game. It’s over when it’s over, so it’s not over yet.”