Words: Afzal Rawuther
KTM rider Sam Sunderland had a crash that ruled him out of Dakar 2018. Having held a lead of four minutes at the start of the stage, the Briton had looked poised for a good performance at the Dakar. However, a tumble and the resulting back injury ensured that he had to be air-lifted out of the stage, where doctors ruled out his further participation in the event. The reigning world champion would thus no longer be able to defend his crown. Yamaha’s Adrian Van Beveren seized the opportunity and won the stage by five minutes to end up on top of the rankings in the general classification. 1 min 55sec behind the Frenchman, is Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla (fourth fastest in the stage) followed by Honda’s Kevin Benavides and KTM’s Walkner. Yamaha’s De Soultrait has now moved up after a tumultuous San Juan de Marcona test for the riders and now sits at fifth overall ahead of Toby Price from KTM.
Peugeot had a memorable day at the Dakar with the top three positions of the general classification in the car category now being held by their drivers. Nine time WRC champion Sebastian Loeb held off teammate Carlos Sainz to win the stage. Loeb was fourth heading intgo the stage and had admitted his lack of experience in dealing with such terrain, but the Frenchman still reigned supreme at the 330km timed special that has been the longest of the rally so far. Loeb led for most of the stage, dropping behind reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel for a bit, only to reclaim his position in the final stretch. At the end of the day Loeb was 1min 35secs quicker than Carlos Sainz while Peterhansel was a full 3 minutes off the pace of the leader. However, Peterhansel did enough to retain the top position in the overall rankings and maintain a lead of seven minutes and thirteen minutes over Loeb and Sainz respectively. The trio’s drama-free day ensured that they now have a strong chance at the Dakar. Not everything was rosy for Peugeot though as runner-up after stage three, Cyril Despres had to pull out after suspension damage made him stop at the halfway point and ask for assistance. Despres is a five-time Dakar winner in the bikes category. Monday’s stage winner Nasser Al-Attiyah also had a disastrous day and ended the stage 54 minutes down on Loeb. He is now almost an hour behind Peterhansel in the general classification.
In the quad category, Ignacio Casale couldn’t win his fourth stage in a row as he was trumped by reigning champion Sergey Karyakin by a mere 43 seconds. Although it puts Karyakin in second position, he is still trailing Casale by 25min 30secs in the overall rankings.
In the truck category, reigning champion Eduard Nikolaev(Kamaz) had a great day winning his second stage in four this year and doing so almost half an hour before his nearest competitor Federico Villagra(Iveco) and establishing a lead of 36min 55secs. The truck category is now a battle between these two as the nearest competitor is now behind by more than two hours.
In the SXS category Patrice Garrouste dominated the field finishing the stage a full 25 minutes before his closest competitor. Garrouste in his Polaris, is now more than one hour and forty minutes ahead of the second-placed Juan Carlos Uribe Ramos in the general classification.
Meanwhile Indian riders CS Santosh and K P Aravind had a decent day at the Dakar. Santosh from Hero MotoSports after suffering a huge drop in rankings in stage three moved up a place to be 56th overall while Aravind from the Sherco-TVS stable is the highest Indian placed Indian rider and is now at 44th position.