The participants of the Dakar made uncertainty their friend as the third stage turned the leaderboards completely upside down. Stage three was rumored to be the toughest challenge with a total distance of over 798 km’s traveled and it more than delivered that promise.
The first two stages of the Dakar remained, besides some navigation errors, pretty much ‘drama free’, but during the monster stage the Dakar struck back. The stage itself, leading from San Juan De Marcona to Arequipa took the competitors away from the dunes and into the mountains providing a tough challenge.
Almost all of the categories were turned upside down after this grueling stage. Most notably the bikes category, where overnight leader Joan Barreda got lost in the fog end ended up being trapped in a rocky ravine. There was no way of getting out of it on his own. Unfortunately, it was over and for the Honda rider and notably the title favourite.
Barreda’s American friend Ricky Brabec got lost together with KTM’s Matthias Walkner and lost some precious time. It was Kevin Benavides who held up the Honda honor setting a consistent stage time and starting stage 4 in second position. The stage victory went to Yamaha’s Xavier De Soultrait and while Barreda is out it’s Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla who takes the overall lead in the rally.
More drama on four wheels as well. Last year’s winner and rally legend Carlos Sainz is out of the title battle for this year’s Dakar after a broken wheel on his Mini X-Raid after hitting a rock. The Spaniard got his car fixed but lost precious time. Also, a technical drama for the 2009 Dakar winner Giniel De Villiers losing oil pressure at km 172 causing him to lose almost one hour. While Sebastien Loeb surprised everyone yesterday by winning the stage and holding off the factory teams in a two-year-old privately entered Peugeot, he wasn’t so fortunate today. Winning yesterday’s stage meant he would be first on the road today and with no lines to follow navigating the stage was a challenge and he lost 41 minutes. It was mister Dakar himself, Stephane Peterhansel, who rose to the occasion and took the stage win on his way to Arequipa. Consistency and respect for the terrain is key in the Dakar and no man knows this better than “the sandman” Nasser Al-Attiyah, finishing in a second place during the last stage hands him the overnight lead.
A fearsome battle is going on in the SxS category: it was Gerard Farrés who took the win after “Chaleco” Lopez lost time in the latter part of the stage. He did, however, take the overnight lead. Last year rivals Kariakin and Varela are following closely in third and fourth spot.
In the quad league it was Jeremias Gonzalez Feriolo who ended Nicolas Cavagliasso’s winning streak. Cavagliasso does retain the lead in the overall standings.
The truck category al seems set in favour of the Kamaz-Master team and specifically last year’s winner Eduard Nikolaev who has started to build a lead while the Iveco of Gerard De Rooy fell back. His team mate Andrey Karginov took the stage win.
In the Original by Motul Category it’s Max Hunt on the Husqvarna who’s leading the pack.
Picture credits: Eric Vargiolu / Marcelo Machado de Melo / Frederic Le Floc'h / photosdakar.com / DPPI