Carlos completes the timed special in 4h 53s to record the 21st stage win of his Dakar career and extend his overall lead to 2m 42s from team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah...
Day 7 - Iquique to Arica (721km; timed special edition 456km)
It was a really tough stage today, I think it was the toughest of the rally so far. Fesh-fesh was the dominant terrain, this type of sand is like powder and driving on it complicates matters considerably. Apart from the fesh-fesh, there was also plenty of variety on the stage including stony sections which saw lots of cars, including ours, suffer punctures.
The main objective of the day was to catch up with Stephane (Peterhansel) and my team-mate Nasser (Al-Attiyah) who opened the road ahead of us. They were driving together but then I saw Stephane had stopped with what turned out to be a puncture. I was driving in Nasser’s dust after that and stayed as close by as possible. It was during this section that our car also got a puncture. I didn’t see exactly what happened but I guess we must have hit a stone in the road. When we noticed the tyre was losing pressure, we had to stop the car and make a repair that, of course, cost us time.
I can’t say that these type of stages are my favourite of the Dakar because they are so difficult and dangerous. However, apart from the misfortune with the puncture, it was a really good day for my co-driver Lucas Cruz and me. I continue to be impressed with my Volkswagen Race Touareg 3, it has been working really well with no problems. This year, the only minor problems we have had to deal with are the puncture today and losing the road a little yesterday. Luckily we’ve not come up against anything too serious so far this year.
We may have won another stage but still it's very close in the standings. The gap to Nasser is small, just 2m 30s, and that’s nothing. Now we have arrived at the rest day and I’m very pleased about that. It's important we take it easy tomorrow and find some time to enjoy ourselves. I have no doubt the second week of the rally is going to be even more difficult. With that in mind we must do all we can to recover the strength which we have already left behind on the course.