Yesterday’s gruelling third stage of the Dakar, from San Rafael to San Juan, saw many of the front runners in the car category lose overall time due to all sorts of maladies – upsetting the overall order to see some surprising top finishers – the most impressive of which was Spaniard Nani Roma, who aside from taking victory on yesterday’s stage also claimed the overall lead.
South African Leeroy Poulter flew the national flag high while the early front runners were losing their way around swollen rivers and canyons. He brought his Imperial Toyota Hilux in just 3 minutes 19 seconds behind Roma, and just over 2 minutes behind Roma’s X-Raid Mini team mate Krzysztof Holowczyc.
“We had a trouble-free run and managed to keep out of trouble. We took it relatively easy in the rocky sections to avoid picking up punctures and were able to make up good time in faster, more open sections. Dust was again a big problem, which made overtaking slower cars very difficult," Poulter said.
The other Imperial Hilux, driven by 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers, is still in the running overall (6th) just one position behind defending champion Stephane Peterhansel’s Mini. Both suffered a series of punctures that made the stage a forgettable one.
The 2013 specification Hilux driven by Thomas Rundle is also moving up the overall order thanks to a 24th place finish yesterday. Despite the result being the best of car #404 so far, it wasn’t all plain sailing after gearbox problems resulted in the loss of the fifth ratio.
“We had another good day. But we could have done even better if we hadn’t lost the gear,” Rundle admitted.
The remaining Ford Racing Ranger, driven by Argentinian Lucio Alvarez and run by the South African Neil Woolridge Motorsport team has run into more bad luck, suffering a broken front-left suspension arm 90 km into the special and finished the stage 9 hours in arrears.
“We need to work on the car, carry out more tests and take part in shorter races to develop it and bring it to a level sufficient to cope with the Dakar. For the moment, that is clearly not the case,” Alvarez said after his long day.
In the two-wheeled category, Joan Barreda scored his second stage victory of the 2014 Dakar, having opened the event with one on Sunday. The Spaniard finished the special almost 5 minutes before defending champion Cyril Despres and 7 minutes ahead of compatriot Marc Coma. South African Riaan Van Niekerk brought his KTM home in 13th position, 28 minutes and 15 seconds behind Barreda.
The tough conditions, worsened by temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius, took its toll on champion and race leader Marcos Patronelli of the quad category, who retired from the event due to dehydration. Lucas Bonetto, who was running in second overall, also had to give up his title hopes after being stuck for hours 100 km from the end of the stage. Poland’s Rafal Sonik took the stage win and inherited the overall lead.
Today, the competitors make their way from San Juan to Chilecito, with the motorcycles and quads having to use the same tyres as yesterday. The cars and trucks face a monster 657 km of river crossing and canyon descents. The total distance for the special and two liaison sections is 867 km!
1. Roma #304 (Mini) = 9 hours 20 minutes 13 seconds
2. Terranova #307 (Mini) + 9 minutes 6 seconds
3. Al-Attiyah #301 (Mini) +10 minutes
4. Sainz #303 (SMG Buggy) + 12 minutes 2 seconds
5. Peterhansel (Mini) + 24 minutes 8 seconds
6.De Villiers (Toyota Hilux) + 26 minutes 23 seconds
10. Poulter (Toyota Hilux) + 45 minutes 10 seconds
33. Rundle (Toyota Hilux) + 2 hours 24 minutes 48 seconds
81. Alvarez (Ford Ranger) +9 hours 54 minutes 42 seconds
1. Barreda #3 (Honda) 9 hours 56 minutes 44 seconds
2. Despres #1 (Yamaha) + 13 minutes 4 seconds
3. Coma #2 (KTM) + 13 minutes 56 seconds
4. Duclos #22 (Sherco) + 16 minutes 38 seconds
5. Lopez #5 (KTM) +18 minutes 39 seconds
12. Van Niekerk #30 (KTM) +50 minutes 19 seconds
1. Sonik #252 (Yamaha) 12 Hours 23 minutes 45 seconds
2. Casale #251 (Yamaha) + 6 minutes 10 seconds
3. Husseini #255 (Honda) + 7 minutes 19 seconds
4. Lafuente #256 (Yamaha) + 7 minutes 26 seconds
5. Abu-Issa #263 (Honda) +1 hour 51 minutes 50 seconds