Wednesday, January 9
The gruelling route of the 2019 Dakar Rally showed its teeth on stage three as it removed race leaders from the contest. A heady mix of dunes, mountain plateaus and roadbook confusion was too much to take for some of rally-raids biggest names as leaderboards across all categories suffered a major shakeup.
In the car class there was a major blow for reigning champion Carlos Sainz (ESP) and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP). The pair’s MINI John Cooper Works Buggy came to a standstill at the 38-kilometre mark of today’s special stage. With their front left wheel almost completely torn off, the duo had no choice but to wait for the team’s assistance truck to come onto the stage and make the necessary repairs. The whole incident has lost Sainz over three hours and cost him any chance of defending his Dakar crown in 2019.
Coming through the third stage with the fastest time in the car race was Monsieur Dakar himself, Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA). The French team-mate of Sainz picked up the 75th stage win of his unparalleled Dakar career, and the first alongside new co-driver David Castera (FRA).
“We had the full mix of tracks that we can find in Peru. Complicated navigation in the dunes. Sand that was very soft and not easy to cross.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
The closest anyone else could get to Peterhansel in the dunes on stage three was Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA). The pair brought their Toyota Hilux home 3m26s behind Peterhansel, a result that lifts them to the top of the general classification. Kuba Przygonski’s (POL) Mini Rally was parked in the third podium position of today’s car stage.
“It was a real Dakar stage, with hard dunes, and a lot of stones.” – Kuba Przygonski
Elsewhere there were various difficulties encountered by high-profile car race entrants such as Sébastien Loeb (FRA), Cyril Despres (FRA) and Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) as well as Sainz. Navigational mishaps have seen Loeb and Despres slip back but stay in the Top 10, while technical problems have completely scuppered De Villiers’s chance of a second Dakar win.
“We got lost on today’s stage and it cost us 30 minutes. We also had a bit of trouble with the engine and we stopped to help a biker who was on the ground.” – Sébastien Loeb
The drama in the bike race on stage three matched, or even exceeded the events in the car category. Honda rider Joan Barreda (ESP) started the day as race leader, but is now on his way home after taking a wrong turn in the mountains. He was not the only biker to suffer on the stage as fog descended in the mountains and severely reduced visibility.
Aside from stage winner Xavier de Soultrait (FRA) and new race leader Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), who finished second today, there were no other bikers who enjoyed a smooth day at the office. The best placed of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders was Sam Sunderland (GBR) who conceded 8m26s to De Soultrait.
“There was a section up in the mountains where there was so much fog that you could barely see three metres in front of you. It was only when I took my googles off that I had enough visibility to ride.” – Sam Sunderland
2017 Dakar winner Sunderland ended up doing enough to move into third overall on this chaotic stage. His team-mates Toby Price (AUS) and Matthias Walkner (AUT) also dug in to maintain spots in the Top 10 of the general classification.
“We got to a waypoint that was by a big cliff that we could have gone down, and if we did that it would have ended the race.” – Toby Price
“It was a pity to get lost before the refuelling because that cost some time. Despite that I’m happy and things are getting better for me now.” – Laia Sanz
In the truck race it was relatively plain sailing for race leader Eduard Nikolaev (RUS). After winning the opening two stages, the Team Kamaz Master driver settled for fourth place today. The result is good enough to preserve Nikolaev’s place at the head of the overall rankings.
“We had big dunes, small dunes and everything in between. We lost five minutes to our rivals, but we are still fighting at the front of the race.” – Eduard Nikolaev
The sheer quality of Team Kamaz Master was in evidence on stage three as Nikolaev’s team-mate Andrey Karginov (RUS) set the day’s fastest time and fellow Kamaz trucker Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) finished up third.
Also holding position at the top of the general classification is Chaleco Lopez (CHI) in the side-by-side/UTV class. Lopez has adapted quickly on his debut Dakar in the category and has built a cushion of 3m24s at the front of the race.
“Today was a day when lots of things could have gone wrong so I’m pleased that we were able to stick to our strategy of coming to the finish with nothing broken.” – Chaleco Lopez
There’s a fork in the road tomorrow at the Dakar as stage four brings the first half of a marathon stage that all remaining competitors will participate in. No technical assistance is allowed after stage four, any mechanical problems must be fixed overnight by the pilots themselves. Bike and quad competitors head to a special marathon bivouac in Moquegua while the rest of the convoy will station themselves in Tacna for the night. Good luck!
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2019 Dakar Rally Car Race Top 5 (after three stages of 10)
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) Toyota 08h34m08s
2019 Dakar Rally Bike Race Top 5 (after three stages of 10)
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Husqvarna 08h34m28s
2019 Dakar Rally Truck Race Top 5 (after three stages of 10)
1. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz 09h37m46s
2019 Dakar Rally SxS/UTV Race Top 5 (after three stages of 10)
1. Chaleco Lopez (CHI) Can-Am 10h00m28s
2019 Dakar Rally Quad Race Top 5 (after three stages of 10)
1. Nicolas Cavigliasso (ARG) Yamaha 10h57m12s
Stéphane Peterhansel: “It was a really complicated day today. We had the full mix of tracks that we can find in Peru. Complicated navigation in the dunes. Sand that was very soft and not easy to cross. It was a tough stage to come through without making mistakes. My co-driver David (Castera) did a really good job. This is our first stage win together so that’ll give us confidence for the rest of the rally.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “We had a small puncture, which only cost us two minutes. It’s a good day, we have reason to be happy. From what I’ve heard, there’s going to be lots of fesh-fesh tomorrow, we’ll have to keep our guard up in the marathon stage. After that, we’ll keep attacking.”
Kuba Przygonski: “Today we were overtaking and overtaking a lot of cars. We are so happy. We got one puncture, but this is normal on this hard terrain. It was a real Dakar stage, with hard dunes, and a lot of stones. Navigation was not so easy, but we started in a great position, twelve, and we had the route quite clear.”
Cyril Despres: “The stage started out really well, I was enjoying it a lot and we were making good navigation. We were crossing the dunes in a good way. Then we were looking for a GPS point that was not on the right kilometre in the roadbook. It’s a pity not to double, triple check things when you make a stage like that.”
Sébastien Loeb: “We got lost on today’s stage and it cost us 30 minutes. We also had a bit of trouble with the engine and we stopped to help a biker who was on the ground. It was a complicated day.”
Sam Sunderland: “There was a section up in the mountains where there was so much fog that you could barely see three metres in front of you. It was only when I took my googles off that I had enough visibility to ride. Up in the mountains we were on a plateau and if you went down in the wrong place you wouldn’t be able to come up again, it would have been game over. There was a fair of amount of chaos out there, especially when we all grouped together. Today was a really tough day.”
Toby Price: “There weren’t too many clues in the roadbook of where to go when we arrived in the fog. The roadbook said stick to the main track, but we couldn’t even hardly see it. Then there was a righthand turn that was easy to miss. We then got to a waypoint that was by a big cliff that we could have gone down, and if we did that it would have ended the race. So to be here now at the finish we can’t complain.”
Matthias Walkner: “It was really dangerous in the fog, I think Joan Barreda went down a five-metre cliff where the visibility was really bad. The Dakar is a big adventure, but our safety must also be respected.”
Stefan Svitko: “I made a couple of mistakes in the navigation today so to get a Top 10 finish on the stage feels good.”
Luciano Benavides: “There were lots of guys having difficulty today and I stopped to help one rider who was on the ground. It was tough to focus on my own race after this so I just did what I could. I might have lost a few minutes today, but I think just getting to the finish of a stage like this is a good result.”
Laia Sanz: “Today was a long stage and I was happy to get a good rhythm going. I think I’m improving day by day. I was riding with Armand (Monleon) for most of the day, it was a pity that we got lost before the refuelling and that cost us some time. Despite that I’m happy and things are getting better.”
Eduard Nikolaev: “A crazy day, a really crazy day today. Very difficult dunes right from the start to the end. We had big dunes, small dunes and everything in between. We lost five minutes to our rivals, but we are still fighting at the front of the race. Thanks to the organisers for such an interesting stage today.”
Chaleco Lopez: “Today was a day when lots of things could have gone wrong so I’m pleased that we were able to stick to our strategy of coming to the finish with nothing broken. So we didn’t get the stage win, but still we drove a good stage with close to perfect navigation.”