The 2018 Dakar Rally continues to take no prisoners with another high-profile driver retiring on Stage 5. After bike champion Sam Sunderland was forced to abandon on Tuesday, today it was the turn of nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb to drop out as the race intensified on a 400-mile plus special stage.
Peru has been a brutal start to the 2018 edition, and Thursday sees the remaining competitors take on high altitude on the way from Arequipa to La Paz in Bolivia.
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Loeb set off first after winning on Tuesday but came to a standstill in the dunes just eight miles in. Despite getting going, he got stuck again and had to wait two hours for assistance before deciding to exit the race due to his co-driver Daniel Elena was in too much pain to start the second special after injuring his tailbone on the descent from a dune.
“There was a hole that I didn’t see – we fell in on the front of the car with a big impact,” explained Loeb. “It was very deep and impossible to get out. It is frustrating as we were in a good position.”
Despite this major setback, the Peugeot team stayed on top with a masterful performance from 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel (pictured), as he safely navigated the soft sand dunes to win the stage from Bernhard ten Brinke and extend his overall lead to 30 minutes from Carlos Sainz.
Joan Barreda was the man to beat, the Spaniard pulling out all the stops to recover a chunk of the time he lost on Stage 3.
Barreda dominated from the start to steal the stage in style, finishing 10 minutes ahead of Austrian Matthias Walkner, who consolidated third place overall on the Red Bull KTM Factory Team bike.
“A really hard day again with so many sand dunes,” Walkner said. “I tried to not risk a lot as today was a day when you could lose a lot of time. Every day things are changing so quickly.”
The big news of the day involved Russian contender Sergey Kariakin, who fell and broke his arm after 71 miles in. Nicolas Cavigliasso won the stage, but Ignacio Casale still tops the leaderboard by 40 minutes.
Eduard Nikolaev recovered his composure to dominate the stage once again. The Russian survived an early scare, when he flipped his truck onto its side, to extend his lead over Federico Villagra by nearly one hour.