Gauloises KTM rider Cyril Despres made up time on the overall leader, Marc Coma. Unfortunately, it was only 22 seconds.
The fourth stage inside of Mauritania's boundaries was won by a relative unknown. Janis Vinters put his KTM 660 at the top of today's leaderboard and scored the first special test victory for his country of Latvia by covering the 494 km of terrain 7'31 ahead of Gauloises KTM's Cyril Despres. Vinters finished as far down as 161st on Stage 2, but today was his third time visiting the top-10. It is, however, the first time he's landed inside that marker for the overall standings. Now in eighth, Vinters will have the honor of leaving first tomorrow morning for a loop course that begins and ends in Nema.
For all his work, Despres only managed to shave 22 seconds off of Marc Coma's overall lead. The Repsol rider finished third with Pal Anders Ullevalseter and Jean De Azevedo behind him. Frenchman David Casteu remains in third overall at 1:11'15 aloof and finished just behind Red Bull KTM's Chris Blais in the stage competition.
Blais was 10'47 off of Vinters' surprise pace but only roughly three minutes behind the normal pack of big dogs. Blais is trying to recover his energy after getting his butt kicked by the grueling Stage 8. All told he is 23 minutes out of podium contention and has a nearly equal margin (26 min) over Ullevalseter in fourth overall.
Casey McCoy finished with a near high mark in 29th but remains in the low-30s for the running tally.
Janis Vinters (KTM) - Winner, 8th OA
A very fast stage during which I could show my skills on sandy ground. It's really the terrain I prefer. I did this stage alone almost all of the time. I quickly caught up with Casteu and Azevedo before passing them. Then I stayed in the wheel of Blais for the last 15 km. It's the first time I win a special stage and I am thrilled. I am very surprised of the gap. If I had been told how far ahead I was, I would probably have slowed down to safeguard victory. No celebration tonight but in Dakar we'll celebrate for sure.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) - 2nd, 2nd OA
Yesterday during the assistance evening, I must have lost my mechanical skills. This morning at the start of the special stage, there was a wire loose in the road book. I had to scroll through it manually all day. It's as if I had to twist candy-frost on a stick for 7 hours straight at a fun fair. So I had to pay even closer attention. Additionally, being physically tired, I had to be extra focused! As for the gearbox problems of the KTM bikes, we'll see how things change. If Coma is ok, he will have to think about playing the lottery soon. There will be a lot of stress tomorrow. I still believe in it, I am not fighting for 2nd place in the overall rankings. I might have a chance of winning. A lot of things can still happen till we're on the beach in Dakar. 'Marathon' stages are great for the Dakar. Ok, today I had to pay my dues, but it's a good thing. It spiced up the race.
Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) - 3rd, 1st OA
It was a long stage again today. 500km of very technical and physically demanding special stage in the beginning. Then I speeded up even if the latest sandstorms had slightly changed the route. So I had to be extremely careful. I drove the whole stage alone in the lead. With this finish in Nema, we just completed two essential stages. Tomorrow, we are still in Mauritania, then comes black Africa where navigation will be essential. I don't want to and I won't think that I've won the raid. I have seen too many things in this race to dare think it. I need to focus and prepare each stage as if it was the first one. This is the only attitude to have.
Jean De Azevedo (KTM) - 5th, 39th OA
I'm happy I got this nice 5th place in the stage. It was less hard than yesterday, which was the toughest stage in the rally. Today, there was sand, stones and a lot of navigation. It's comforting to be 5th but I don't expect anything in terms of results in this Dakar anymore. 4 days ago, I broke the bike and I stayed for 8 hours in the desert. My initial aim of being in the top 5 has vanished. I just want to get to Dakar.
Stage 9 Results:
Stage 9 took riders through more of the infamous Mauritanian dunes.
1. Vinters, KTM
2. Despres, KTM
3. Coma, KTM
4. Ullevalseter, KTM
5. De Azevedo, KTM
6. Blais, KTM
7. Casteu, KTM
8. Esteve Pujol, KTM
9. Rodrigues, Yam
10. Czachor, KTM
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