Today the racers taking on Stage 9 at the Dakar rally had to tackle rocky terrain in an environment that was different to the canyons and mountains of the first week. This stage will take them past cliffs where they can admire them from wide valleys or while traveling along the edge of the tall cliffs.
The route then heads east for the second part of the special where drivers will be wishing they were still near the cliffs. Sand will be everywhere and not show any of the drivers any relief. As they reach Haradh, they will also approach the “Empty Quarter,” which makes up the stage of the forthcoming two-day marathon stage.
The SSV class started with Blade Hildebrand continuing the Dakar Experience formula and made a good start. Hildebrand was leading Casey Currie by two minutes after 100 km whilst Chaleco López trailed by 5 minutes and 46 seconds.
After 244 km Hildebrand continued to lead, but only by 45 seconds ahead of his teammate Mitchell Guthrie Jr. Since the two men are enrolled in the Dakar Experience formula, it is good for Chaleco López, who is six minutes behind the current stage leader Hildebrand, but trailing Currie in the overall standings.
Hildebrand proved that his win in Stage 7 wasn’t by mere luck, the young driver won his second stage by only 58 seconds, in front of his teammate Guthrie Jr. Currie was able to fight his way back through the field and take home third place. He currently sits comfortably atop of the general standings and was able to gain several minutes over Sergei Kariakin and Chaleco López.
“Today was good, it’s just what we needed,” Currie said. “Yesterday I just had a bad day with the broken axel and it just made for a long day and lots of frustration. Today, Sean did a great job navigating in all the rocks at the beginning and we pushed really hard. We got a lucky break with a couple of trucks and we got clean air.”
“Right before the refueling, we had a lot of clean air and we pushed really hard,” Currie continued. “The race is not over and I want to make sure that I have a gap. It looks like I caught Chaleco at the end there, so hopefully, we can get a bigger gap. It’s not over. This race is so grueling. Every mile there is something new. We’ve still got a long way to go. The fast tracks I feel were to my advantage today.”
“We had a very good suspension and a very good day,” Currie continued. “Sand dunes for me are good. I can drive well on the sand dunes. Hopefully, we will have some team-mates with us so we can work together in the sand dunes. The race is not going to be won alone; it’s going to take a team. We’re going to do whatever we can to get to the sand dunes as fast as we can and get to the marathon stage safely.”
The Americans took the podium for the first time in Dakar and in a stage like this, it shows just how good the drivers we have out there are. With Casey Currie pushing and maintaining and extending his overall lead, it is even closer to the point he will take home the overall win in the SSV class.