It was a day of movement during the third stage of the Dakar Rally. Stephane Peterhansel soared to his 42nd Dakar win in a car, with runner-up Nasser Al-Attiyah moving into the overall Dakar Rally lead on Wednesday. Peterhansel, who finished 13th after losing time in the dunes during Stage 2, moved up to third in the overall standings.
The car classification saw quite a few changes, with Giniel De Villiers and Carlos Sainz running into trouble. Sainz, the defending race winner, got stuck near mile 24 of today’s special when the front left wheel of the Spaniard’s Mini was almost torn off. De Villiers, who had the overall lead entering the stage, lost more than four hours’ time.
Yesterday’s winner, Sebastien Loeb, finished over 42 minutes back.
“It was very foggy, but the problem was getting lost,” he said. “We couldn’t find our way back, so we went around in circles… and lost half an hour doing this. We lost big time, so we’ll start from far back tomorrow. I didn’t crash, but the engine is making noises, so we’ll have to fix it before the marathon stage. We’ll see.”
Xavier de Soultrait beat the odds after two difficult days and turned the tribulations of his adversaries to his advantage in a masterful performance during the moto stage. The Yamaha rider defeated Pablo Quintanilla by a whisker to claim his first Dakar stage win, with the Chilean taking the overall lead by a comfortable margin.
In the S×S category, Gerard Farres got to grips with his new vehicle and took his maiden win in the class, beating his former motorbike rival and new overall leader “Chaleco” Lopez. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli ended Nicolas Cavigliasso’s victorious streak in the quad category and grabbed his first triumph this year ahead of his countryman, who nevertheless retains a comfortable lead. The general classification also remained unchanged in the truck category, as Eduard Nikolaev continues to lead despite the best efforts of 2014 champion Andrey Karginov, who handily beat Federico Villagra today.
Joan Barreda has an impressive assortment of Dakar stage wins, but the only thing he added to his collection today, two days after clinching his 23rd special, was another calamity. He had already suffered injuries, mechanical problems and critical navigational mistakes before, but this time he encountered an entirely different setback at mile 89. The Spaniard plunged down a steep descent, only to become stuck at the bottom of a basin without being able to get his Honda out. After searching in vain for a way out, the hitherto overall leader gave up and called for a helicopter to evacuate him. It is the fourth time in nine Dakar starts that he has failed to finish the rally.
“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I got off to a great start, feeling strong, attacking and catching up with the riders in front of me. I got to a summit where it was really foggy. There was no visibility and I went down the wrong descent. It was extremely slippery, it was impossible for me to get back up. I looked for a solution at the bottom, but I didn’t find any. There was no way out.”