Stage seven of the 2013 Dakar Rally took racers from Calama, Chile, to Salta, Argentina. The daily route had a 218 km (135 miles) special stage and a stretch in the Andes Mountains with elevations approaching 5,000 feet. The site said racers were faced with temperatures around 15 F.
The ATV portion of the event got under way around 10:44 a.m. in Chile. Heading into the seventh stage, Team Nextel Huawei by Can-Am racer Sebastian Palma was fifth in the overall quad category and first in the 4×4 segment. Claudio Clavigliasso (a fellow Can-Am Renegade 4×4 pilot) was ninth heading into stage seven.
At the end of the seventh stage, Palma posted a time of 2:25:06 to earn his first stage victory and just the fourth ever for a Chilean racer (according to Dakar.com). Palma still trails in overall time and is currently fifth in the quad category, but he clearly has momentum and is the clear class leader in the 4×4 ranks.
After stage six, in a press update from Juan Pablo Rodríguez, Prensa Team Nextel Huawei by Can Am, Palma described himself tough and said his training has prepared him for Dakar. His confidence must be building after his very impressive stage victory. Though he trails four sport quads in the overall WPS standings, he has earned a new level of respect from everyone, competitors, organizers and media alike.
At the 17:48 mark during stage 7, even those in charge of posting the Dakar live updates, showed a bit of surprise with their posting:
“17:48 Quads: Will it be Palma’s day? He has come through the time check points almost three quarters of an hour behind the leaders, but nonetheless he is leading the quad race less than 30 km from the finishing line: Chilean Sebastian Palma is in the process of putting the elite quad riders in the shade. He currently boasts a 49 second lead at the fourth time-check point.”
Their final live action update told the entire story: “Palma Wins!” The only question that remains is can he keep it going with one more grueling stage prior to the rest day on Sunday, Jan. 13.
Clavigliasso finished the seventh stage in eighth place and still sits in the top 10 overall in the quad category and is second to Palma in the 4×4 segment. Other Can-Am Renegade ATV racers still competing in the 2013 Dakar after seven stages are: Chilean racers Barry Cruces (16th overall/3rd 4×4), Rodrigo Ramirez (18/4) and Ricardo Vinet (19/5) as well as Marcelo Fernandez (20/6) of Argentina and Diego Martinez Dimetry (26/7) of Bolivia.
Stage 8 of the 2013 Dakar race starts early tomorrow, taking racers from Salta to San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina.