Dakar Stage 3 report
Cyril Despres, already a winner in San Juan on the Dakar's last visit in 2010, won again today in the motorcycle category, taking advantage of a major navigational error by Nani Coma to take the overall lead in the general standings. Nani Roma won his 15th stage on the Dakar and his 3rd in the car category. His team-mate Holowczyc, who is starting to make a collection of second places, nonetheless took control of the general standings.
Endurance alone is not sufficient without a little attention to detail. On the Dakar, this point was proved by Cyril Despres, who took command of the general standings and won the day's stage by remaining calm and collected. In terms of performance, his confrontation with Marc Coma for a long time seemed like a game of ping-pong: advantage to the Frenchman by 20 seconds at CP1, then to the Spaniard by 14 seconds after 117 km. The likelihood of a slender victory for one rider or the other seemed to grow as the stage went on.
However, opening the road is never an easy task. At the junction between the routes dedicated to the bikes/quads and the cars/trucks, after 164 kilometers of racing, Coma made the wrong choice and followed the car/truck route for more than 4 kilometers. Despite his efforts to try and make up for this lost time, his about-turn cost him 13 minutes at the finishing line. On completion of this 27th special stage victory, Cyril Despres now finds himself leading the rally with an advantage of 10'12” over his biggest rival.
The brave challengers to Coma and Despres once again had to admit that there is a chasm separating them from the two men. In the end, Frans Verhoeven picked up 2nd place on the day's special. The performance was encouraging for the new Sherco that he is riding, but the Dutchman still came in 8'37” behind Despres, whilst Paulo Gonçalves took only 2 seconds more. More importantly, the lesson about being calm and collected, two essential qualities on the Dakar, was a tough one for two pretenders to the podium, who will be leaving the rally by the back door; or rather by his assistance truck for Jakub Przygonsky, whose engine blew after 68 km, and by the medical helicopter for Quinn Cody, who broke his collar bone following a spectacular fall after 173 km of the special stage.
It is just as vital to be consistent and regular on four wheels, where even the smallest of mistakes can cost several precious minutes. Stephane Peterhansel made significant progress at a decent pace in the special, enabling him to put in the best intermediate times at the 41 km and 163 km points. However, in the last 50 kilometers, the main favorite in the car category was halted twice by punctures. In the end, he lost more than 6 minutes to Nani Roma, who took it upon himself to offer the X-Raid a second victory for a Mini on the Dakar, after the one achieved by Novitskiy on the first day. What's more, the German team can be happy with its day's work, since Krzysztof Holowczyc, who was second today, takes the lead in the general standings.
As regards, the race hierarchy, there is still plenty of competition because Robby Gordon, with the day's 5th best time on the special, holds on to 2nd place in the general standings, only 54” behind the Polish driver. Also, whilst the Hummer has been able to keep up with and even dominate most of the Minis, the potential of the Toyota Hilux is also starting to be conveyed by progress in the standings. In his own discrete and efficient way, Giniel De Villiers completes the provisional podium, made up of 3 different teams. The winner of the Dakar 2009 is only 1'40” behind Holowczyc in the general standings.
The quad race between San Rafael and San Juan saw a predictable change in the balance of power. The wait for the reaction from the Argentineans was starting to drag out, after the two consecutive victories of their Uruguayan neighbor Sergio La Fuente. Marcos Patronelli, who had not tasted victory since the 2010 edition, won with a lead of 1'52” over his countryman Thomas Maffei. Alejandro achieved the 3rd best time of the day, but more importantly took the lead in the general standings, 55” ahead of… none other than his younger brother Marcos.