Sand galore! The fifth and final stage in Peru was just like the ones that preceded it. The cars and trucks, racing on their own separate course, went through another day in hell. The Tacna region and its mountainous dunes showed no mercy, but the competitors got to take a breather with a stretch on the beach prior to the long transfer to Arequipa.
Full steam ahead for Joan Barreda! The Honda rider, far from the overall lead this morning, rocketed nine places up the general classification with an impressive victory, with more than 10 minutes to spare over Matthias Walkner and Kevin Benavides. Adrien Van Beveren held onto the overall lead by a wafer-thin margin, while Pablo Quintanilla lost ground today. In the car category, Stephane Peterhansel brought his experience to bear and danced around the final dunes in Peru to cap an impeccable performance with his first win of the year ahead of Bernhard ten Brinke. He now has a margin of more than 30 minutes over Carlos Sainz in the general classification. Meanwhile, NicolÃ¡s Cavigliasso shone in the quad category by claiming his first Dakar win in what was only his fifth stage in the rally. He is worth keeping an eye on over the next few days, just like Eduard Nikolayev, who claimed his third stage in the truck category and put clear daylight between him and the second-placed in the overall.
Performance of the day
Antoine Meo has good reason to be happy after finishing fourth today. The off-road prodigy set the race on fire in 2016 with two stage wins in his first Dakar, but he also sustained a hand injury that kept him off his official KTM for a year and a half. Furthermore, his recovery was hampered by several bouts of surgery. The Frenchman, relieved to regain his form at the Dakar, is hoping to keep getting stronger as the race goes on.
A crushing blow
Yesterday's stage winner Sebastian Loeb found out how quickly joy can turn to ashes. The final stage on the dunes of Peru buried the hopes of the former WRC driver, who was forced to withdraw from his third Dakar after spending over two hours stuck in the sand. Co-driver Daniel Elena was too much in pain to start the second special after hurting his tailbone on the descent from a dune.
Stat of the day
Boasting a margin of more than 40 minutes over Alexis Hernandez in the quad classification after just five stages, Ignacio Casale is head and shoulders above the rest of the field. The Chilean rider is fully in control and has claimed three victories and two second places in five stages so far, despite the category having more entrants than ever at the start in Lima (49). Defending champion Sergey Karyakin calling it quits as a result of a broken wrist will only make things easier for Casale.
Quote of the day
Adrien Van Beveren: "I'm happy to be done for today because it was tough… and I'm happy I managed to leave the other guys behind. I attacked near the end of the first special because I knew I could press home the advantage in the second one, especially with the tracks left by the cars. My little Yamaha saw me through to the end, but it was tough… I'd never seen sand so loose before. There was a moment when I had to pedal with my legs to get over a dune."
Standings after Stage 5 (Car class, top 10):
Pos. Driver / Co-driver Car Time/Gap
Bernhard ten Brinke
Giniel de Villiers
Dirk von Zitzewitz
Khalid Al Qassimi
Xavier Panseri Peugeot +1h46m48s