America’s Bryce Menzies became one of the first major casualties of the 2018 Dakar Rally by crashing his Mini just a few miles into the 166-mile special stage around Pisco, Peru.
Both Menzies and his co-driver Peter Mortensen escaped without serious injuries, but the damage to the car means their debut Dakar is over.
“I am all right, I was more worried about my co-driver who broke his ankle,” Menzies said. “I feel really bad for the whole team. We were running on a graded road; I thought it was a smaller bump than it was and we flipped six or seven times.”
Monday sees the longest day so far with a 129-mile liaison followed by a punishing 184-mile special stage which finishes in San Juan de Marcona.
After a frustrating opening day for Team Peugeot Total, the 3008DKR Maxi flexed its muscles on the first long stage to dominate the leaderboard.
Cyril Despres won his second stage victory with the team, and with it took the overall lead, by bringing home a Peugeot 1-2-3 in front of Stephane Peterhansel and Sebastien Loeb.
“I wasn’t expecting something like this… I’m delighted to make it out in one piece,” Despres said. “There [are] big, easy to climb dunes as well as very soft plateaus. We saw Carlos … and others stuck in the sand… We wanted to avoid that. Our strength lies in the depth of our field, so we didn’t get all worked up. David did an awesome job navigating, with no backtracking or nasty surprises. It’s great to get a feel for the race. I feel more relaxed now… It’s a good sign!”
Overnight leader Nasser Al-Attiyah lost nearly 15 minutes, his co-driver reportedly suffering with illness.
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The riders were aided with their navigation on Sunday as the cars had started proceedings, leaving tire tracks which riders could choose to follow.
Joan Barreda pushed to the front of the standings with the stage victory, closely followed by sand specialist Adrien Van Beveren with Red Bull KTM Factory Team’s Matthias Walkner in third.
“There were many navigational pitfalls, but I was able to set a strong pace and gain time on everyone else. That’s quite a few stage wins!” he said. “I’ve been trying hard and working hard for several years now. The next step is winning the Dakar, but it’s extremely difficult, it takes a lot of time.”
Ignacio Casale’s positive early race form continued as he made it back to back stage wins. The Chilean extended his overall lead over Sergey Karyakin who finished second, 43 seconds behind.
Said Casale: “This is shaping up to be a thrilling battle with Sergey. Today’s stage was awesome and I had a whale of a time despite a small problem with my engine after about 80 kilometers. I’m delighted with the race so far because I have been able to ride at a high pace but without taking big risks.”
2017 champion Eduard Nikolaev confirmed he is the man to beat agin this year as he manoeuvred his Kamaz Master truck to the top of the leaderboard with a dominant victory in Pisco. The Russian was three minutes quicker than Federico Villagra, with Ales Loprais third.