He only started in 30th place, but by the time he got to Nazca he’d already left almost 20 other riders in the dust. Francisco López took his second stage win in three days at the 2013 Dakar. In the car category, Nasser Al-Attiyah won his 15th special at the Dakar, while the X-Raid team’s delight at seeing Stéphane Peterhansel seize the overall lead was tempered by the injuries and withdrawal of key driver Pole Krzysztof Holowczyc.
Leading the field can prove costly. It’s a strategic factor that must be taken into account in the Dakar. Yesterday’s heroes are often today’s losers. And this is exactly what happened to Joan Barreda and his fellow travellers towards the start of the stage. Yesterday’s winner was followed by Pedrero, Fish and others as he carefully performed his duties. He avoided the most dangerous pitfalls by focusing 110% on the road book… meaning he could only maintain a leisurely pace. Meanwhile, the most experienced riders started quite far back but they seized their chance to overtake the entire field without having to wrack their brains navigating. And few are better at this than Francisco López: the leading group went through the km 39 checkpoint at no more than 50 km/h, but Chaleco blasted onwards at 100 km/h.
The Chilean was rewarded with his eighth Dakar win, the second of this edition. But he didn’t take over the lead. Cyril Despres is no slouch either when it comes to experience and strategy, and he’s got a knack for recognising the key points where he can make the difference. Today’s third place behind Chaleco and Paulo Gonçalves was enough for him to take the overall lead with a margin of 2?51? over López, 4?59? over Pål Anders Ullevålseter and 6?03? over Olivier Pain.
Today’s stage also saw a repeat winner in the quad category, as Marcos Patronelli grabbed his second stage this year and slightly bolstered his position… despite having to deal with a slowly deflating tyre which forced him to slow down 30 km from the finish! The Argentinean driver now commands a 21?18? lead on his nearest competitor, Sebastian Husseini. One of the first casualties of this war of attrition was Tomás Maffei, third in 2012, who has a deficit of 1 h 35? to make up on Patronelli in the overall.
Today saw the opening of hostilities in the car category. Only last evening, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz were sharing a pleasant meal in Pisco with Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma. Yet the Qatar Red Bull Rally Team’s Spanish driver had already filed a complaint which would result in his table partner being stripped of both the stage 2 win and the overall lead! The race officials decided to deduct the time he’d spent looking for a waypoint which hadn’t been “validated” by a malfunctioning GPS, leaving Sainz to lead the field on its way to Nazca.
The Matador’s streak was cut short by electrical problems which forced him to stop several times and cost him roughly half an hour, but Nasser Al-Attiyah took over and kept the Qatar Red Bull party going. The Qatari started in seventh place and went on to overtake all those in front of him except for Peterhansel. It was a great day at the office for Al-Attiyah, who climbed from seventh to second overall. It’ll be harder for Robby Gordon to bounce back, but the American cut his deficit from 55′ in Pisco to 46′ in Nazca. The other big winner was Stéphane Peterhansel, who reclaimed the overall lead he thought to have conquered yesterday.
But don’t expect the X-Raid team to be all smiles tonight. While their captain was filling the bill, Krzysztof Ho?owczyc crashed 39 km into the special. His Mini jumped over a dune and had a rough landing which hurt the Polish driver’s back and ribs. His co-driver Felipe Palmeiro emerged unscathed.
Only one driver has managed a hat-trick of wins in this year’s Dakar, and it’s none other than Gerard de Rooy. The Dutch truck driver’s flawless performance inspired teammate Miki Biasion to a third place finish. It also was the first time in the 2013 Dakar that the Kamaz team managed to put one of its trucks in the Top 3. Eduard Nikolaev only lost 1’24″ today and now lies 21’44″ behind the defending champion in the overall classification.
Carlos Sainz (driver) and Timo Gottschalk (co-driver) races during the 3rd stage of Dakar Rally from Pisco to Nazca, Peru on January 7th, 2013 // Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool // P-20130107-00072 //
Nasser Al-Attiyah: “The stage win is a great result for the team and puts us in a good position to continue our winning strategy on Stage Four. To win the first three stages at the Dakar in our new Buggy is fantastic.
“Today was a very tricky stage with difficult waypoints and lots of soft sand. For Lucas and myself to get our first victory of the year on a stage like this is very satisfying. What feels even better is that our new Buggy has won every stage so far at this Dakar Rally.
Lucas Cruz (co-driver of Nasser Al-Attiyah): “Today was not easy and there were a lot of potential mistakes to be made on the stage. We were not thinking at the beginning of the day that we should try and win the stage but our speed was very good. Winning this stage helps us to close the gap on our competitors.”
Carlos Sainz: “Our engine misfired in the first kilometre of today’s stage and then the problem got worse and worse until we eventually came to a complete stop. I was thinking that the rally was over for us in that moment. We were able to flick the master switch and the power came back, but then the car was stopping and starting throughout the rest of the stage. I’m just relieved that we made it to the end of stage so we can start again tomorrow.”
Timo Gottschalk (co-driver of Carlos Sainz): “We were nervous from the very beginning of today’s stage because of the misfire. Each time our car stopped we couldn’t be sure it would start again. We ended up losing some time today but it could have been a lot worse for us.”