Sebastien Loeb remains at the front of the 2017 Dakar Rally despite seeing his Peugeot team-mate Stephane Peterhansel claim his first stage victory of this year’s event.
However it was a nightmare day for Toyota, with all three factory entries hitting trouble, with Nasser Al-Attiyah in particularly enduring a horrible day in Argentina, while troubles also befell Nani Roma and Giniel de Villiers in the second part of the stage.
The day was broken up into two timed sections, the first of 240 kilometres before another 124 kilometres, split by an un-timed road section that saw a climb of more than 5000 metres above sea level, and it was Dakar legend Peterhansel who ultimately set the pace, easing to the stage win as Peugeot locked out the top three places.
Carlos Sainz Sr was second fastest ahead of Loeb, but the story of the day was not so much the success of the French team, but the nightmare for those within the Toyota camp.
Loeb had looked set in the early stages to lose the lead, with Al-Attiyah enjoying a strong opening section, but the Qatari driver damaged a wheel in the second timed section, losing over an hour as repairs were carried out, before resuming only to stop again.
Roma also found the going tough, stopping during the second section as well, but he was able to resume without losing more than a few minutes to the Peugeots, but de Villiers lost more than half an hour and now will he hoping for trouble to hit his rivals in order to be able to fight for victory.
Mikko Hirvonen was the best of the rest on day three of the rally, with the X-Raid Mini driver ending fourth, while Cyril Dupres made it four Toyota’s inside the top five.
Al-Attiyah finally finished the stage but lost 2 hours and 17 minutes to Peterhansel, and will now need a minor miracle to take victory in this year’s event.
Loeb remains ahead the standings by 42-seconds from Sainz, while Peterhansel is third, 4 minutes and 18 seconds down on the multiple World Rally Champion. Like on the stage, Hirvonen sits fourth in the standings but 9 minutes and 38 seconds behind Loeb, while Roma is fifth, 13 minutes and 4 seconds behind.
In the Bike classification, overnight leader Toby Price lost out on day three as Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort dominated the stage to take the lead, and the Honda rider will head into stage four with an 11 minute and 20 second advantage over KTM’s Sam Sunderland, with Paulo Goncalves third on a second Honda.
Price now sits fifth for KTM behind Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna, and having been ahead after day two now finds himself 17 minutes and 19 seconds behind leader Barreda.
Ignacio Casale moved into the lead of the Quads section after overnight leader Pablo Copetti dropped to third, although Gaston Gonzalez was Wednesday’s pace setter that saw the Argentine racer move into second, albeit 4 minutes and 37 seconds down on Chilean Casele. Copetti is now 18 minutes down in third.
Eduard Nikolaev was fastest in the Trucks division, with the Kamaz driver moving up from ninth to second in the overall standings as a result, just 33 seconds behind Tatra runner Martin Kolomy, who finished the stage in third behind Ton von Genugten.
Martin Van den Brink and Gerard de Rooy both lost time on the day, the former having issues in the second timed section, while the latter lost half an hour due to punctures twice forcing him to stop.