On the return journey to Pisco, the riders and drivers were served up a cocktail of sand for 360 km, before they get the chance to savour a flavoursome Pisco Sour!
The day started with fesh-fesh and was followed by an intermittence of beaches for almost 80 kilometres. Before encountering the genuine chains of dunes to be crossed to reach the finishing line of the special, care had to be taken to avoid stalling in the formidable “subida de los burros”.
The dunes of Ica, already partially visited during stage two, were more comprehensively explored, with the aim of submitting the participants to the most demanding of ascensions and descents, for example at the 300-kilometre mark on the special.
To finish the route, a final portion of off-track racing required maximum awareness from the co-pilots.
Alternating between good and less good since the start of the Dakar, Matthias Walkner distinguished himself beautifully with his second victory since the start in Lima on completion of a wholeheartedly ridden special.
As a result, the title holder, who still has every chance of keeping his crown, finished just 45 seconds ahead of Pablo Quintanilla, another rider who has climbed up the general standings. Indeed, this classification is now led by Toby Price, who perhaps put on the finest performance in Pisco by gritting his teeth and bearing the increasing pain in his damaged wrist.
As for Sébastien Loeb, he gave another demonstration of his fine form with his fourth victory in 2019, 7’27 ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah, who in turn again proved to be imperious in his role as rally leader.
The man from Alsace is battling for second place in the general standings with Nani Roma and has at the very least shown that he can be the quickest, even in the sand! This terrain is perfectly suited to Nicolás Cavigliasso, who is quite simply untouchable in the quad category.
The Argentinean grabbed his 7th success since the start and now boasts a lead of 1 hour and 24 minutes over his nearest pursuer in the general standings. Such a performance may have inspired Chaleco López who won his third consecutive special in the SxS race, allowing him to regain the lead in the general standings two days from the finish.
Similarly, Dmitry Sotnikov took control of the race lead in the truck category at the best moment, thanks to his convincing victory today.
The Russian even has a comfortable lead over his team-mate Eduard Nikolaev, after the title holder got stuck in the sand for almost one hour at the start of the stage.
Performance of the day
The strategy had no doubt been carefully and painstakingly planned in the Toyota clan, with a clear grasp of how beneficial starting down the field for the Super Ica stage could be! In this case, the Qatari driver started 30 minutes behind his main rival, Stéphane Peterhansel, with the possibility of following the lines left by the bikes and cars and pushing at full throttle, on off-track terrain ideally suited to such an exercise.
In the end, Al-Attiyah missed out on a 34th stage victory, but took advantage of the mishaps suffered by yesterday’s winner, Peterhansel.
His nearest pursuer, Nani Roma, trails by 46’29’’, followed closely by Sébastien Loeb. With 425 kilometres of special remaining to be raced before Lima, are the two men still an obstacle between the Qatari and his third title?
A crushing blow
Like many others before him, Ricky Brabec once again fell foul of the harsh laws of the Dakar.
Almost exactly one year after having broken the engine on his Honda, the American once again was forced to exit the rally for the same reason, a heart-breaking blow for a rider who, up until that point, had ridden the perfect race and was dreaming of being the first representative of Uncle Sam to win the Dakar.
Although he was not expected to do as well, the official HRC rider obtained another stage victory in 2019 and most impressively was leading the general standings three days from the finish.
It is a crushing blow for Honda also, because on yet another occasion they will not have been able to bring the domination of KTM on the Dakar to a close.
Stat of the day
Three out of four: KTM love the Dakar and the Dakar loves KTM. Although faced with more serious rivals than ever before, the Austrian firm that has won the last 17 editions has not panicked, instead biding its time.
With an experienced trio made up of Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner, the constructor with the orange livery has played the percentages without ever reaching the top of the general standings before the third to last stage in Pisco, where the team’s three riders instantly climbed into the top 4 of a classification led by the winner in 2016, Toby Price.
What’s more, the odd man out in this quartet is none other than Pablo Quintanilla, who is riding a Husqvarna, a cousin brand of the official KTM…
Quote of the day
“My wrist is on fire”
Toby Price: “Today, I knew it had to count. That was my maximum today, so any more than that, well… I can’t do any more. My wrist is on fire now, so it’s been a long stage, 360 km, but we’ve made it here to the finish and there’s just two more to go – this is a good thing. [For the wrist] you’ve just got to somehow shut it off. There’s times when you can rest it and when you can’t, but it’s just difficult, though when you throw your helmet on and you go and ride your bike, you just want to do the best you can, and try and do it all again”.