Perilous mountain tracks combined with tricky navigation created the toughest day yet at the Dakar.
Today it was the Andes Mountains that came into view for the brave competitors who have come along for the ride at the world’s toughest rally-raid.
Under the gaze of the mighty peak of the Aconcagua, the 2014 Dakar Rally trail twisted and turned in the thin air of the mountain range between San Rafael and San Juan. On a stage that required high speed and a watchful eye on navigation it was unsurprising to see some experienced bikers make their mark.
Marc Coma of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team was the ninth bike to start Stage Three after encountering gearbox trouble yesterday. Cyril Despres of Yamaha Factory Racing followed Marc onto the stage and the former team-mates both enjoyed success as they rode side-by-side.
Marc and Cyril showed all the skills and concentration that have seen them win eight editions of the Dakar between them. The Red Bull-backed riders not only moved up the leaderboard but also took care of their bikes as the race reaches the midway point of the first of two marathon stages.
Even with Marc and Cyril enjoying their best days of this Dakar so far they were both powerless to stop Honda HRC’s Joan Barreda picking up another stage win. Barreda now leads second place Cyril in the overall standings by 13 minutes with Marc less than a minute further back in third.
In accordance with the marathon stage rules the bikers have now been sent to a separate bivouac at the end of Stage Three and will have no support from their mechanics until they’re reunited at the end of day four.
This extra challenge seem to affect some of the novice riders with yesterday’s stage winner Sam Sunderland losing lots of time after a navigational error. The stage was even crueller to Ruben Faria as last year’s runner-up in the bike race was forced to retire after falling from his bike.
The most high profile withdrawal of the day belonged to Argentinian quad champion Marcos Patronelli who had to stop due to mechanical problems. There will now be a new name on the quad trophy at the end of this Dakar following the four years of dominance by Marcos and his brother Alejandro Patronelli.
Even 11-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel found it tough going on day three as he suffered six punctures during the 300km special stage. The shake-up in the car race now sees Nani Roma lead with the Red Bull SMG Buggy of Carlos Sainz a tantalising 12 minutes behind. Peterhansel now has 24 minutes between himself and race leader Roma.
If any further confirmation of tough terrain offered up by Stage Three was needed then it can be found in the truck race. While Team Kamaz Master maintained their 100% stage win record thanks to Andrey Karginov the Russians were unable to exert their normal level of control today. As a result Karginov holds third place, 40 minutes behind race leader Gerard De Rooy, and the next best placed Kamaz truck belongs to Eduard Nikolaev in seventh place.
Marc Coma’s Bitesize Blog:
“Tyre wear is always tricky to manage. In South America we travel through many different countries and types of terrain. In the past the Dakar Rally was mainly sand but now we have many kilometres of gravel and mountain tracks to contend with. Argentina is particularly hard on tyres.”
Dakar Alphabet… I is for Iritrack System
This satellite-supported system for position tracking is essential to the modern Dakar. Race control can use it to track the position and speed of any vehicle at any time. An integrated satellite telephone also allows the participants to contact race control in case of an emergency.
On This Stage…
2010: The Argentinian dunes between La Rioja and Fiambalá proved a struggle and many of the competitors who managed to actually complete the 441km stage did not arrive at the bivouac until the early hours of the morning. With an Andes crossing scheduled the next day the organisers had no choice but to delay and shorten the following stage.
San Juan and Mendoza are the biggest wine-producing provinces of Argentina. How many litres of wine does Argentina export annually?
☐ over 50 million litres
☐ over 100 million litres
☐ over 200 million litres
Yesterday’s answer: The third round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship will take place at Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo, Santiago del Estero.
As the Dakar moves from San Juan to Chilecito the bikers must be wary of wear and tear on their vehicles after being denied the help of their mechanics last night. Things are no easier in the car and truck race as a timed special stage of 675km leaves plenty of room for mistakes and mishaps.