The second longest stage of the rally varied in aspect, with an alternation of dunes, sandy tracks and potions of beaches. Once they had made it passed the difficulties of Ica’s dunes, the riders and drivers headed to the Pacific Ocean and followed the coast for one hundred kilometres, over small dunes and sandy beaches.
A quicker section heading north was perfectly utilised by Sébastien Loeb, who managed to keep sufficient pace in the last 50 kilometres through the dunes of Ocucaje, just before the finishing line of the special.
After caution the day before, Sébastien Loeb unleashed his talent to let the lion on his Peugeot 3008 roar this Tuesday on the long special finishing in San Juan de Marcona.
The man from Alsace did not make the slightest mistake and held out against the amazing comeback by Nani Roma, who was timed at just 8 seconds behind Loeb on the finishing line. In 4th place, Giniel de Villiers took command of the general standings in which Stéphane Peterhansel plummeted downwards after losing almost 20 minutes stuck in a dune.
Such difficulties were brilliantly negotiated by Chaleco López for only his second stage in an SxS, allowing him to add to the excellent roll of honour (3rd overall in 2013 and 2014) which he started on a bike, 5 years after his last appearance on the Dakar. Matthias Walkner can also already boast an improved victory count.
The Austrian was faithful to his role as title holder and beat Ricky Brabec at the death by just 22 seconds at the end of a superb duel between the two men throughout the stage. In 3rd, Joan Barreda still leads the general standings. In the quad race, the same classification is heavily dominated by Nicolás Cavigliasso thanks to the Argentinean rider’s second successive stage win.
In the truck race, there were also two stage wins in a row, as Eduard Nikolaev triumphed again behind the wheel of his Kamaz.
Performance of the day
For his second Dakar after an impressive showing in 2016 and a fine top 10 finish at the outcome, Harry Hunt today showed that he possesses pure talent. The Englishman took time to return to his best level after a neck injury in late 2016, but today demonstrated that he perfectly knows how to handle the Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi entrusted to him this year as a team-mate to Sébastien Loeb. Hunt grabbed 9th place in the first stage before improving to finish in 7th position on the first major test of this year’s Dakar. Car manufacturer Peugeot has left the event, but two of its former cars have nonetheless made it into the top 10.
A crushing blow
With Adrien Van Beveren’s 7th place, 9 minutes behind the winner, and the 12th position achieved by Xavier de Soultrait, 16 minutes behind Walkner, the Yamaha clan have little to smile about. Both men have not yet seemed able to keep pace with the rhythm imposed by the leading lights of the Honda and KTM teams. For the moment, they are far from reaching their goals. The damage in the general standings is already significant and the two Frenchman will be keen to reverse the trend tomorrow in the dunes around Acari.
Stat of the day
2: the number of SxS competitors taking part in the Dakar who have already participated in this category. Almost half of the field are newcomers to the Dakar!
Quote of the day
“I got stuck in a really bad place”
Stéphane Peterhansel: “For us it was not an easy stage. We started with some electrical problems inside the car: no microphones, no air-conditioning, no wipers, nothing was ok. I lost my concentration a little bit and after I got stuck in a really bad place. We are happy because Cyril stopped for us and pulled us out. In the end we have lost a lot of time, but without the help of Cyril I think we would probably still be in the same place, so it’s ok”.