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.
Sam Sunderland set the record straight. The winner in 2017 was distanced yesterday, but grabbed his second victory in three days and more importantly opened up big gaps over his rivals. 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.
Sunderland’s performance was echoed by Nasser Al-Attiyah, who brilliantly recovered after a below-standard day yesterday. The Qatari dominated the stage from start to finish and methodically distanced the Peugeot armada to reduce his disadvantage in the general standings, which nonetheless are now solidly led by Stéphane Peterhansel. Federico Villagra picked up his first victory on the Dakar on his third participation in the truck category by beating the leader of the general standings, Eduard Nikolaev, at the very end of the stage.
Performance of the day
Ignacio Casale continues to dominate the Dakar 2018. The Chilean quad rider triumphed in San Juan de Marcona to take his third consecutive stage victory in fine style. The winner in 2014 finished half an hour ahead of Alexis Hernandez and Sergey Karyakin, both powerless to counteract Casale’s superiority.
A crushing blow
Proud to open the way following his excellent performance yesterday, Joan Barreda went through hell at the end of the special. The official 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.
Stat of the day
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 qualities. 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.
Quote of the day
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “We had two flat tyres: today and on morning one, on the short stage, and we had one today before thirty kilometres. We lost around three minutes, but it was not a big deal. We won the stage, which was good. We needed to push, but not really crazily. It was not a big push, because the road really isn’t easy and very dangerous in places. It was a good performance and I’m quite happy to win. It’s no problem. There’s still a long way and we believe our Toyota Hilux is a good car and we’ll do our best like what we did today. It’s good, except for yesterday when we opened which was very difficult for us because there were no lines, but I think we are in a good way now”.