LOEB ON THE MARCH
Another day, another Dakar Rally stage victory for nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loebas the Frenchman continues to lead. The Peugeot man and long-time co-driver Daniel Elena shrugged off the disadvantage of opening the road with an aggressive performance that increased their cushion at the head of the race.
Despite violent storms complicating events at the Dakar, there’s no dampening the enthusiasm that Loeb is bringing to the rally. Today’s stage from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy was shortened from 314km to just under 200km due to recent heavy rainfall, but Loeb took it all in his stride to make it back-to-back stage wins. Spain’s Carlos Sainz was the day’s second-fastest driver, 1m 23s behind his Peugeot team-mate. This nip and tuck battle between Loeb and Sainz was a reminder of their days as WRC team-mates at Citroën, no quarter was asked or given.
Solid performances from French pair Stéphane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres ensured all fourTeam Peugeot-Total crews scored top-10 results on the second stage.
Defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was third-fastest on the route to Jujuy with South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers one place behind the Qatari. Polish Red Bull-backed drivers Adam Malysz, Kuba Przygonski and Marek Dabrowski are all off to steady starts with another round of results inside the top 25.
Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda followed up his prologue stage win with today’s quickest time in the bike race. The 15th stage win of the Spaniard’s Dakar career propels him to the top of the overall classification. Dakar debutant Antoine Méo also enjoyed himself on the stage with a magnificent fourth place.
Méo’s Red Bull KTM Rally Team colleagues Matthias Walkner, Toby Price and Jordi Viladoms all slipped down the rankings on this stage. The talented trio will be out to make up lost time as the two-day marathon stage gets underway tomorrow. Fellow KTM rider Iván Cervantes continues to impress during his first Dakar with 20th place today, just 10 seconds behind Hélder Rodrigues.
In the quad category Chile’s Ignacio Casale missed out on a third consecutive stage win by four seconds as Brian Baragwanath of South Africa beat him to the line. Argentinian quad bikerMarcos Patronelli was fifth on the stage while Qatar’s Mohamed Abu Issa narrowly missed out on the top 10 with his 11th place finish.
It was another frustrating day for truck competitors at the Dakar as their race fell victim to the weather once again. A landslide on their route led to an already shortened stage being cut back by a further 100km. The four trucks of Team Kamaz Master toiled in the testing conditions and are hopeful of improved forecasts for the following stage’s 419km timed special section.
For cars, bikes and quads tomorrow brings the first part of a two-day marathon stage. This means that after completing a 429km loop around Jujuy in northern Argentina the crews will be left to fend for themselves overnight. Mechanics and engineers are barred from entering the marathon bivouac so any repairs must be carried out by the competitors themselves