San Miguel du Tucuman – San Salvador de Jujay
Bikes, Quads: 521km; Cars: 500km; Trucks: 226km
Another day heading to the north meant the longest stage of the Dakar so far for some, though the stage for the car, bike and quad runners was split by a neutralised part run on public roads. For the trucks, a shorter stage brought the race back to normal with a familiar name at the top of stage times.
Bikes: Despres And Coma – Battle Joined?
Jonah Street was the master of the bikes in the early running, the American and his Yamaha besting the big names of the Dakar at the day's first split time before slipping back – but only into the top five – by the time the field reached 72km.
However, the mid point saw Street slip further back, losing over five minutes in just a handful of kilometres before the neutralisation. His misfortune allowed Spaniard Marc Coma to take his first stage win of the year, but the story of the day was Cyril Despres.
Running first on the road the reigning champion lost over six minutes in the opening section of the stage, clocking only the 45th fastest time, but from then on the fightback was unstoppable. As the stage lead slipped first from Street, then Paulo Goncalves to fall into Coma's lap Despres made up half of his early deficit to climb to just fourth fastest at the 219km point of the day's running. Once the bikes had travelled the 170km neutral section – competitors are not allowed to speed, but break downs and delays can still cost places – and begun the 102km 'sprint' to the line Despres was on the pace again, clawing back time on Coma to finish just 2m21 behind – and with the second fastest time.
“Marc Coma caught up with me very quickly,” Despres said. “There were a lot of riders at the start of the special. I was very careful during the first 10 kilometres and then after 11 km I got it completely wrong. I didn't lose two hours, but several precious minutes. In the end, I limited the damage, because I finished 20 seconds behind Marc. He must have gain 2 minutes 20 seconds on me. It's not huge amount of time, but I would've liked to have kept it for myself”.
The Frenchman's endeavour was well rewarded, holding onto his overall lead, though Coma has moved to just 14 seconds behinds.
Ruben Faria maintained an ever increasingly distant third – a fifth best time today, keeping up his good run of form. Goncalves was third fastest, while sixth on stage was good enough to life Brazilian Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho into the overall top five for the first time. His improvement was at the expense of 'Chaleco' Lopez who finished the stage 13 minutes down on Coma, after mechanical problems.
“I started at a good pace, but then I had a problem with the fuel intake. I had to stop, repair and lost around ten minutes. After that, I rode at a gentler pace. I knew it would be a difficult day, but I'm still here. I hope that things will change once we get to Chile and I'm at home”.
Quads: Home Win!
Tomas Maffei was the surprise winner of a quad class which today was dominated by Argentine riders. Alejandro Patronelli made the early running, swapping the lead with Sebastien Halpern, while Czech pair Martin Plechaty and Josef Machacek could only look on.
The stage also seemed to be the one to confirme Marcos Patronelli's return to form. The 2010 champion – still recovering from a serious injury sustained a few months ago – had been planning to run simply in support of his brother rather than to defend his title. However, when the No.250 quad was second quickest to the beginning of the neutral part of the stage, every part of that plan appeared to have disappeared from his mind.
However, Marcos lost 54 minutes in the final part of the stage, tumbling down the order to finish the day nearly an hour down on Maffei.
Sebastien Halpern claimed the second fastest time of the day ahead of Alejandro Patronelli as all three moved ahead of Machacek at the top of the overall standings, the trio covered by little over a minute and now a full 19 minutes ahead of Plechaty – fourth, and the best non-Argentine.
Halpern's advantage is just 12 seconds over Patronelli, with Maffei a further minute behind – the exact time he was penalised after stage one.
Cars: Still A VW, But A Different VW
After two wins for Carlos Sainz, it was Nasser Al-Attiyah who won the car class, taking second in the standings to give VW a 1-2 on the overall standings.
Sainz, the first car on the road, never recovered from the time lost in the early stages and it was Stephane Peterhansel – the man who Al-Attiyah would end the day replacing in second – who made the early running before being passed, first after 113km, then 179km to the leading VWs. The three finished the stage, their times separated by just 59 seconds.
However, the stage victory still left the Qatari unhappy at the way the day had gone; “I'm very disappointed,” he said. “We had exactly the same problem as yesterday. We completely lost power after 200 km. I don't know why. That's three days the same thing has happened. I gained 1 minute 30 on Carlos in the first part, but I lost my lead on the technical section where you must always use 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear. We must fix the problem. I don't care about our time or the special stage victory. Tomorrow there will be dunes and soft sand and that will be a problem”.
5m30 adrift of Al-Attiyah's pace was Pole Krzysztof Holowczyc, but the fourth fastest time was enough to conform him in fifth place overall, chasing Giniel de Villiers in the third of the VW Touareg 3 machines.
For the fourth of the Red Bull sponsored cars – in the hands of Mark Miller – it was the first day of damage limitation and driving, realistically, as a support man for his teammates. After the team worked into the early morning Miller started well down the order but was undeterred, running back on the pace of his teammates. The American finished the stage sixth fastest after spending nearly the whole day passing the slower cars he started amongst. Robby Gordon shed another 25 minutes to the leaders in his Speed Energy backed Hummer, increasingly pinning his hopes to the stages in Chile.
Guerlain Chicherit, who was delayed on day one, spent another trouble free day at the wheel of the MINI, ninth fastest overall. BMW and VW – unsurprisingly – dominate the top of the leader board, Brazilian Guilherme Spinelli the best man in a non-German car, eighth fastest in his Mitsubishi.
The long stage for the cars will mean that many of the 135 cars who started the day will be finishing their 500km well into the evening.
Trucks: Chagin's 58th and 1st
Running a significantly shorter stage than the other classes, their timed section ending before the neutral part of the other races, the Trucks had an easier day of it, and after a lowly – by his standards – fifth place yesterday it was Vladimir Chagin who claimed his 58th career Dakar stage win, and moved into a clear lead at the top of the overall standings.
Chagin and the rest of the Kamaz team were on fine form – the foursome of The Tsar, Firdaus Kabirov, Eduard Nikolaev and Ilgizar Mardeev all congregating at the top of the stages time. The man (or Tatra) tasked with fighting back against the domination of Ales Loprais, who kept pace with the Russian crews all day, only missing out on the second fastest time by five seconds to Kabirov.
The pair were, however, soundly beaten by Chagin who was nearly seven minutes ahead of his teammate. The advantage was more than enough to let Chagin retake the overall lead, converting most of his stage win into an overall lead which sits at 6m23 over Kabirov – the ever present Loprais just 15 seconds further back.
2011 Dakar Rally Stage Three Results:
1 Marc Coma (KTM) in 4:18m55
2 Cyril Despres (KTM) +0:02m21
3 Paulo Goncalve (BMW) +0:03m36
4 Olivier Pain (Yamaha) +0:04m34
5 Ruben Fario (KTM) +0:05m46
1 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) in 4:58m04
2 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) +0:01m27
3 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0:04m23
4 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0:20m34
5 Josef Machacek (Yamaha) +0:20m44
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) in 3:42m20
2 Carlos Sainz (VW) +0:00m25
3 Stephane Paterhansel (BMW) +0:00m59
4 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:05m30
5 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:05m53
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 2:57m36
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:06m45
3 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:06m50
4 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +0:16m37
5 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:21m01
Overall Standings After Stage Three:
1 Cyril Despres (KTM) in 9:38m58
2 Marc Coma (KTM) +0:00m14
3 Ruben Faria (KTM) +0:09m38
4 Paul Goncalves (BMW) +0:10m43
5 Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho (BMW) +0:16m07
1 Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) in 11:02m21
2 Alejandro Patronelli (Yamaha) +0:00m12
3 Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) +0:01:12
4 Martin Plechaty (Yamaha) +0:19m08
5 Tomas Machacek (Yamaha) +0:22m32
1 Carlos Sainz (VW) in 9:12m05
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) +0:03m34
3 Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) +0:04m19
4 Giniel de Villiers (VW) +0:16m57
5 Krzysztof Holowczyc (BMW) +0:21m49
1 Vladimir Chagin (Kamaz) in 9:38m58
2 Firdaus Kabirov (Kamaz) +0:06m23
3 Ales Loprais (Tatra) +0:06m37
4 Franz Echter (MAN) +0:35m00
5 Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz) +0:38m58