Sebastien Loeb rebounded from a rocky first stage to win Tuesday’s stage and climb up to fifth in the general standings, 1m56s behind the new overall leader Giniel de Villiers of South Africa, driving for Toyota Gazoo Racing.
“Yes, it was a good stage for me with no problems. We tried to take a good rhythm and to keep it,” said Loeb, who is driving a 2017 Peugeot 3008 entered by the private team PH Sport.
“It wasn’t easy to keep the same rhythm all the time, but finally we did a good stage with no big mistakes and we won the stage. It was no problem, the road position – it was a good one, to start a bit behind. It was a good choice. So, for the moment, everything is okay.”
Loeb did not make the slightest mistake and held out against an amazing comeback by Nani Roma, who was timed at just eight seconds behind Loeb on the finishing line.
Joan Barreda keeps the lead in the general standings thanks to his third-placed finish today. In fourth place, Giniel de Villiers took command of the general standings.
The second day of the rally started at a good pace for 13-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel, but he lost almost 20 minutes in the dunes halfway through the stage, before his teammate Cyril Despres came to his rescue. The Frenchman’s long halt in the first zone of dunes proved costly as he finished 15 minutes behind Loeb. Nasser Al-Attiyah also had a day to forget, completing the special in provisional 11th place, 7m37s off the pace.
“For us it was not an easy stage,” Peterhansel said. “We started with some electrical problems inside the car: no microphones, no air conditioning, no wipers, nothing was okay. I lost my concentration a little bit and after I got stuck in a really bad place. We are happy because Cyril stopped for us and pulled us out. In the end we have lost a lot of time, but without the help of Cyril I think we would probably still be in the same place, so it’s okay.”
Such difficulties were better negotiated by Chaleco Lopez for only his second stage in an SxS, allowing him to add to the roll of honor (third overall in 2013 and 2014) which he started on a bike, five years after his last appearance at Dakar.
Reigning bike champion Matthias Walkner won the second stage by grabbing victory from the hands of Ricky Brabec in the last kilometers of the special, beating the American by 22 seconds after having ridden the entire special in the Honda rider’s wake.
“I don’t know at the moment if it was such a good decision to push that much, because I have to look at how big the gaps are,” said Walkner, who earned his third career Dakar stage win. “I don’t think I caught up that much time. In the end, sure, it’s good to have a stage win. But there are still more long days coming. The cars were difficult to pass in some places. The cars were not dead fast; sometimes it was bad, so we had to overtake, but the most difficult was the fesh-fesh getting really loose. Sometimes with the bikes it was so deep that you can’t miss some stones, so it was quite dangerous at times, but it was fun.”
“I wanted to push today,” said Brabec, who led at all the time check points but lost ground at the stage’s end. “Actually, I want to push every day, no matter what the next day is like. As far as being smart and having a strategy goes, I just want to win as much as I can and hopefully make it to the end of the Dakar with a good spot. Hopefully there’s someone still out there going along pretty good. I know there are a lot of fast people behind me. Hopefully, they’ll go faster than me today, that way tomorrow I won’t lose so much time. It’s clear that tomorrow could be difficult, but it’s not too sure”.
Nicolás Cavigliasso again dominated his rivals in quad, opening a lead of 11m18s over Gustavo Gallego.
In the truck category Eduard Nikolaev earned his second consecutive stage win in 2019. The defending title holder was in control on the sandy terrain behind the wheel of his Kamaz and beat Gérard de Rooy by 2m39s. The Dutchman is still in the reckoning in the general standings.