San Rafael – San Juan
Cars, Truck 208km; Bikes, Quads 270km
Stage three of this year's rally and the competitors get their first driving in the Andes mountain range that will flank the rally's route through the remainder of the 2012 edition on the way to Lima, Peru. The highest peaks on the bike stage – well over 3,200ft – and steep climbs will test the mechanical strength of the engines in some of the harshest possible conditions. The shorter car stage presents many of the same challenges on rough, rocky terrain. Another factor, in hindsight on the stage, will be navigation with at least two of the top competitors losing time to following the wrong route on the way to San Juan, nestled in the mountains.
Bikes: Despres Takes Advantage Of Wayward Coma
Cyril Despres won both the stage and moved into the overall lead as he benefitted from problems for those who begun the day ahead of him in the overall stages.
Of those to lose time the highest profile – obviously – was Spaniard Marc Coma who started the day leading the class. Coma and Despres duelled through, swapping the lead through the first three checkpoints until just two seconds separated the pair after 162km in Coma's favour.
However, just after the checkpoint a navigational error lost Coma 13 minutes to Despres, setting only the seventh best time on the day, allowing Despres to build up a ten minute lead in the overall standings – the biggest lead of all four classes at this stage.
“After 170 km,” Coma explained, “there was a different track for the bikes and the cars. I checked the road-book and thought I was on the right track, but then I saw that wasn’t the case, because the next note was after 8 km and it wasn’t correct, so I turned round! 16 km is a lot! So, after that, I went on the attack to tray and gain back some time, but today was a difficult day, even if the scenery was spectacular… Well, in the end, I’ve lost 13 minutes. It’s a lot, but when you make a mistake, you shouldn’t be surprised that the gaps open up. That’s racing for you. Yesterday was my day, but today definitely wasn’t!”
Chilean Francisco 'Chaleco' Lopez, who started the stage second overall lost 18 minutes to Despres on stage and dropped to fourth behind David Casteu who set the day's sixth fastest time. Joan Barreda Bort – another man who began the day in the top five overall – fell even further back, losing 41 minutes to the new rally leader.
The Spaniard's place as top Husqvarna rider is taken by Paulo Goncalves, who lies sixth overall after setting the third best stage time, losing out by just two seconds to Sherco rider Frans Verhoeven.
The problems in the bike class were completed by two other riders who showed pace in the opening stages. Jakub Pryzgonski was forced to retire with a blown engine on his KTM. Quinn Cody broke a collar bone in a fall and so followed the Pole out of the Rally.
Quads: Patronelli (Younger) Leads For The First Time Since 2010 Victory
Pablo Sebastian Copetti won the stage by over fine minutes ahead of Marcos Patronelli, deny the 2010 champion his first stage for two Dakars. However, Copetti has already collected a four hour penalty after stage two, meaning he is well out contention for the class lead lying seven hours off the pace.
For the younger of the Patronelli brothers second on the stage was good enough to lift him into the class lead, with erstwhile leader Sergio La Fuente losing time, only finishing sixth fastest on the stage.
Marcos leads an Argentine 1-2-3-4 in the overall standings, with brother Alejandro, Tomas Maffei and Lucas Bonetto in sequence behind, though a gulf of over 30 minutes splits Bonetto from the podium spots. All are ahead of Luis Henderson who moves into fifth after setting the sixth fastest time on the stage, 21 minutes down on Copetti and five behind Ignacio Casale who was fifth fastest.
Cars: Roma Wins, Holowczyc Survives Mishap To Take Overall Lead
The stage for the cars was again a fight between the Team X-Raid MINIs and the Robby Gordon Motorsport Hummers.
Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel was on course to extend his lead with a first stage win of the 2012 Dakar. The Frenchman, already a multiple champion in both the car and bike classes led through the first two the day's checkpoints – at 40 and 117km.
However, it washis X-Raid teammate Nani Roma – another man who has swapped two wheels for four during his years of Dakar competition – who was left to pick up the stage win after Peterhansel suffered two separate punctures. Peterhansel was delayed by just six minutes, but in the early stages of the Dakar it was enough to drop him to fifth overall as Roma moved up to fourth.
The overall rally lead passes to Krzysztof Holowczyc who finished the stage in a time just a minute longer than Roma's benchmark, and despite losing time when a branch broke his MINI's windscreen as he drove through some water on stage.
“When we drove through the water there was really bad visibility and we took a branch which was really heavy properly full on in the front of the car,” he said. “It broke the windscreen. One time we lost about 30 seconds maybe more because we followed the motorcycles and they went the longer way. We had to reverse after 500 metres but we had to go very slow to avoid hitting any of the motorcycles because they were going the opposite way. It was a good stage, for sure, a good stage without technical problems.”
Holowczyc was just 1:09 slower than Roma through the 208km stage and 20 seconds faster than Nasser Al–Attiyah.
The pair of Hummers had a quieter day after their – especially the Qatari's – rampage to the front on stage two. Both he and Robby Gordon kept pace with the MINIs and Giniel de Villiers' Toyota during the stage though both lost time in the early kilometres, Gordon losing a minute before the first checkpoint.
Gordon still lies second overall, nearly a minute down on Holowczyc, with de Villiers now third. Nasser Al-Attiyah continue to run sixth overall. The best man outside of the MINI, Hummer and Toyota squads is Portuguese driver Carlos Sousa, who is ninth overall for the Chinese Great Wall team.
Trucks: It's Kamaz, But Not As We Know It
While the wait continues for the first Kamaz stage victory of the 2012 Dakar Rally, one of the Russian marque's trucks has assumed the overall lead, but is that of Kazakh driver Artur Ardavichus who holds a 28 second advantage over Gerard de Rooy in the overall standings.
The best of the Kamaz works entries lies sixth overall in the hands of Eduard Nikolaev who was only eleventh best through the stage.
The best of the Kamaz Master team's runners on stage three was instead Andrey Karginov who finished third behind Ardavichus and stage winner Miki Biasion.
Ales Loprais was fourth fastest on stage and takes fifth place in the overall standings behind Hans Stacey but ahead of the Kamazs of Nikolaev and Dakar debutant Ayrat Mardeev who now lie sixth and seventh overall.
2012 Dakar Rally Stage Three Results
|1||256||Pablo Sebastian Copetti||Yamaha||4:47:53|
|4||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||2:28:24||+0:01:33|
Overall standings after stage three
|3||301||Giniel de Villiers||Toyota||5:52:46||+0:01:40|
|2||502||Gerard de Rooy||Iveco||6:48:01||+0:00:28|