9 times World Rally Champion has now won Stage 3, exciting many stage rally fans and showing that yesterday wasn’t a fluke. That’s now two for two for Sebastien “The Master” Loeb and the powerhouse Peugeot Dakar team. It didn’t take long for the cheers and jeers to start on social media of course.
We heard everything from:
So now Loeb is making the Dakar as boring as he made the WRC.
Thank goodness for the bikes
Peugeot have done their homework since last year and Loeb is the best driver, almost everything he touches turns into gold … 🙂
Loeb isn’t the only WRC driver to have success in the early goings of the 2016 Dakar. Loeb’s closest WRC rival Mikko Hirvonen is sitting in 4th place today, just 5:52 back and leading the Mini X-Raid squad. WRC privateer Martin Prokop lost a few positions from 10th to 12th, but still sits a respectable 17 minutes behind the leader. This is also Hirvonen and Prokop’s first Dakar Rally and both are making a great showing of their WRC talents on the early stages.
Two time WRC champ and 2010 Dakar winner Carlos Sainz put his foot to the floor in the upgraded Peugeot 2008 Dakar gaining 3 places finishing 2nd fastest of the day. This now puts him in 10th overall, but he still couldn’t make ground on Loeb.
Elsewhere in the WRC world, WRC2 Champion and defending Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah gained ground today after suffering a puncture yesterday. He was on full pace finishing 3rd fastest and now sits in 5th. Also of WRC2 fame, last year’s Dakar podium contender Yazeed Al-Rajhi gained a single position from 14th to 13th, completing the stage 9th quickest. Like many, Xavier Pons got stuck in the mud yesterday and lost an hour and a half finishing a frustrating 81st, but improved today to 63rd overall in his Ford Ranger.
As rallyists, we have to admit the early stages of Dakar 2016 are mostly in favor of stage rally drivers using gravel and dirt roads on surfaces they are used to. Here’s a description of Stage 3 from dakar.com:
The format is tighter for the day’s race against the clock… as are the mountain tracks featuring in the special section. Experts in sliding and on the road will be able to showcase their skills here, as long as they stay constantly focused. Those hunting down the leaders will be on high alert during this route, which has been designed for opportunists. But the programme could also be transformed by any rain: even the strongest competitors do not necessarily perform well on heavy ground.
There is still a long way to go that will include open desert terrain where navigational experience will play a larger part. It will be interesting to see how the stage rally specialists will fair vs. their off-road desert racing competition in the days that lie ahead.
USA’s Robby Gordon has lost another 10 minutes to the front runners today, this in addition to the almost 20 minutes lost yesterday in a mud hole. On the bright side, he gained a few positions and is sitting in 17th, 27:25 behind leader Loeb. Gordon’s young teammate Sheldon Creed also gained positions from 35th to 29th as he finds his way through his first endurance event and sits almost an hour behind the leaders.
The Trucks class has hardly had a chance to stretch their legs. As with all the other classes, Stage 1 was cancelled and Stage 2 was shortened. Now Stage 3 was shortened for the Trucks when part of the track caved in, making it impassable after checkpoint 2.
In the bikes the Honda team was lead by local Argentine rider Kevin Benavides followed by teammate Paulo Goncalves. Joan Barreda Bort finished the stage 5th quickest and now resides 3rd overall behind Benavides. KTM still leads the event with Stefan Svitko leading by a scant 34 seconds. The bike class is so close that the top 22 are separted by less then 15 minutes, and in that 22nd spot is USA’s Ricky Brabec.
Tomorrow a new challenge awaits as the “Marathon Stage” combination commences. The Marathon means that no service will be provided at the end of the 630KM Stage 4, and only the drivers/riders can work on their own vehicles with the parts onboard. Management of their machines and tires will be paramount as they navigate the rocky terrain and high altitudes over both days. Not until the end of the 642KM Stage 5, a total of over 1200KM , will service resume.
Be sure to follow live tracking via http://www.trackingdakar.nl/
Daily updates on TV at NBCSN
Latest news bits via Dakar.com
On Twitter follow the hashtag #Dakar2016
Mini X-Raid Team news here
Team RedBull here