Words by Afzal Rawuther
Stage three of the Dakar 2018 took the competitors through some sand dunes in the Ica desert and their navigational skills were tested. Being a long and fast stage, there was a lot of time to be made for the participants who lost out in the previous stages, while the leaders looked to consolidate their positions before making their way to San Juan de Marcona and its big sandy beaches.
Sam Sunderland, last year’s winner, had a great run and won his second stage in three days. Kevin Benavides and Toby Price did well and made up for lost time, but Matthias Walkner and Adrien van Beveren did not, trailing the leader by more than 13 minutes. Happy to open the way following his excellent performance yesterday, Joan Barreda Bort had a rather disappointing third stage. The factory 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 Bort must now attack and make up for lost time and hope that his rivals make mistakes.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, had a great day in the cars category and brilliantly recovered after a poor outing yesterday. The Qatari dominated the stage from start to finish and distanced the Peugeot Armada from himself to reduce his disadvantage in the general standings, which are now led by Stéphane Peterhansel. Nani Roma crashed in his Mini John Cooper Works car a mere kilometre before the launch, sustaining head and neck injuries.
Federico Villagra picked up his first victory on the Dakar on his third outing in the truck category by beating the leader of the general standings, Eduard Nikolaev, as the stage came to a close. With 80 kg less and 3 cm more suspension clearance on his Toyota, Nasser Al-Attiyah is taking full advantage of his new Hilux’s dynamic capabilities. These modifications are permitted by new FIA rules that came into force recently, to strike a balance between the performance of two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles.
Ignacio Casale continues to dominate the Dakar 2018 in the quad category. The Chilean rider triumphed in San Juan de Marcona to take his third consecutive stage victory in style. The winner in 2014 finished half an hour ahead of Alexis Hernandez and Sergey Karyakin, both unable to counteract Casale’s superiority.
Sherco-TVS’ Aravind KP made good ground to finish the day in 29th- both stage and overall. Hero MotoSports’ CS Santosh, who started the day in 28th had a terrible day and finished 56th overall. The rear fuel cap wasn’t secured properly and resulted in him running out of fuel 30km before the stage ended. hero MotoSports’ Oriol Mena, on debue in Dakar, completed the third stage in 12th place to ascend to 19th overall, while Sherco-TVS’ Joan Pedrero finished the stage strongly in 16th position to be ranked 20th in the overall rankings.