Orlando Terranova’s hopes of winning the 2015 Dakar Rally were undone early. But as we head for the final stage on Saturday, he’s showing the speed that is certainly worthy of a championship.
The Argentine racer chalked up his fourth stage win on home soil Friday in the run from Termas de Rio Hondo to Rosario, Argentina.
It also marks the fifth time in the last six stages that he has finished either as the winner or the runner-up (Wins in Stages 7 and 12; second place in Stages 8, 10, and 11; seventh in Stage 9).
“It was good, you know,” said Terranova, who beat out Vladimir Vasilyev by 30 seconds and Emiliano Spataro by 1:29 on Friday.
“By the end, we had caught up with [overall leader] Nasser [Al-Attiyah] and ended up in the dust. When we came to the finish, there were a lot of people by the road and it was very nice.”
If not for an ill-fated Stage 4 where he suffered suspension damage after hitting a rock, it’s likely that Terranova would be fighting the aforementioned Al-Attiyah for the overall title.
Nonetheless, Terranova and co-driver Ronnie Graue have been among the fastest pairs in this year’s Dakar. The duo and their team have treated the remainder of the event with the goal of getting a baseline for next year.
“At the beginning, we made some mistakes and we had bad luck, but we had to go on to get to the end of the rally and afterwards try and learn and see where we need to improve and be faster,” Terranova noted.
“Of course, we’re already thinking about 2016. We must work hard to arrive here in better conditions.”
As for Al-Attiyah, now one day away from a second Dakar crown, he knocked out a fourth-place result on Friday that added almost seven minutes to his overall lead over Giniel de Villiers. The gap is now more than one half-hour at 35 minutes, 39 seconds.
All that’s left for the quick Qatari is securing a trouble-free run in Saturday’s dash to Buenos Aires, which features a 174km special.
“I’ve worked a lot since last year, because last year, I was disappointed with the one-hour penalty,” said Al-Attiyah in reference to his missed way point penalty on Stage 5 in the 2014 running.
“I should have won the Dakar. I’m quite happy to work all year towards this victory on the Dakar 2015. Of course, we’ve got a lot more experience since 2011 and I have a good co-pilot [Mathieu Baumel] with me now who helps me a lot. We have a good relationship. The mechanics have been working very, very well.
“Every day, the car is working well, the tires, we don’t have any problems at all. Everything is working 100 percent right for this Dakar. I’m not stressed for tomorrow. If I wake up in good health, I will do my best.”
Robby Gordon also returned to the Top 10 on Friday with a ninth-place finish at 5:20 back of Al-Attiyah. This comes one day after he and co-driver Johnny Campbell finished 13th despite a nasty run-in with an embankment.
Gordon has now posted his sixth Top-10 result of the Dakar and his fifth such result in the last eight stages. He’s still at 19th in the overall standings.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 12 highlights tomorrow at 6 a.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 12 – Termas de Rio Hondo to Rosario, Argentina)
1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 40hrs, 18mins, 30secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 35mins, 39secs
3. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 1hr, 31mins, 51secs
4. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 3hrs, 1mins, 34secs
5. 310-Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), + 3hrs, 12mins, 19secs
6. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 3hrs, 15mins, 16secs
7. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 3hrs, 41mins, 53secs
8. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 3hrs, 44mins, 35secs
9. 329-Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), + 4hrs, 7mins, 47secs
10. 302-Ronan Chabot (SMG), + 4hrs, 41mins, 37secs
19. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 7hrs, 48mins, 19secs