Three stages in and Sam Sunderland is back in control of the Dakar Rally…
Following a first long stage that enabled initial gaps to be opened on Sunday, the competitors had to tackle the dunes of the Ica Desert for one last time, allowing them to showcase their navigation and dune-crossing talents.
There was much time on offer to be made up for the unfortunate participants of the previous day before swooping down into San Juan de Marcona and its big fine sandy beaches.
Photo Credit: PhotosDakar.com
Sunderland back on top
Sam Sunderland set the record straight. The winner in 2017 was distanced on stage two, but grabbed his second victory in three days and more importantly opened up big gaps over his rivals.
“That was a tough day – there was a lot of off-piste riding and some of the dunes were really difficult to navigate and even climb,” told Sunderland.
“It made the whole day that little bit more physical, too. I’m happy to get another win, but it’s still early days yet and we have a long way to go.
“The bike felt really good today, even in the soft sand it was still pulling really well. I made a couple of mistakes in the middle of the stage, but thankfully they didn’t cost me too much time.”
Benavides top Honda
Kevin Benavides and Toby Price limited the damage, but Matthias Walkner and Adrien van Beveren did not, trailing the leader by more than 13 minutes.
“I am very happy and satisfied with today's stage, where I ended up opening the track in the final kilometres,” said Benavides. “It was tough but I got a good result that leaves me in a good position.
“The special was very hard indeed, very difficult in the dunes, with some very soft parts, where the bike kept getting stuck in the sand.”
Photo Credit: PhotosDakar.com
Husqvarna up to third overall
Holding on to the provisional lead until the final part of the stage, Pablo Quintanilla finally posted the fifth best time for the day to move up to third overall…
“I recovered some time on the guys ahead, but then ended up losing a couple of minutes when I made a small mistake with one of the waypoints.
“I feel a lot fitter today than I did yesterday so that helps a lot, especially on the longer stages.”
Photo Credit: HIMOINSA
Farres top privateer
Finishing sixth on the stage Team HIMOINSA’s Gerard Farres was best placed privateer among the factory teams…
“It was a very complicated day, with dunes and a lot of navigation, and some of the most important rivals made mistakes.
“But I had a good feeling, I felt strong and when I caught the Honda rider I knew I could ride with him and keep up the pace. The important thing for now is still not to make mistakes and stay close to the head of the race.”
Barreda gets lost
Proud to open the way following his excellent performance yesterday, Joan Barreda went through hell at the end of the special.
The Honda rider missed a way-point and had to turn back for 15 kilometres until he found the right track.
As a result, he lost 28 minutes to the stage winner. Barreda must now attack to claw back the time lost and hope that his rivals make mistakes.