Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena continued to dominate the 2016 Dakar Rally as the pair won the third stage and consolidated their lead to a solid 5 minutes 3 seconds ahead of their more experienced team-mates and fellow competitors.
Heading in to the third day, the route for Stage 3 was reduced from 314 kilometres to 190 kilometres as a result of bad weather damaging part of the route.
While Loeb had impressed many on the first competitive stage yesterday few were expecting his domination to continue, but the Frenchman did just that as he brought home his Peugeot 2008 DKR in 2 hours 9 minutes and 39 seconds, just 1 minute 23 seconds ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz.
“We had a lot of fun on that stage” said the nine-time World Rally Champion Loeb. “I thought the times would be very close so I pushed hard. Everything is going well for the moment and I’m enjoying this Dakar: we’ve had two good days. The car is working well and it’s very competitive.
“I’ve got a very good feeling on this type of road but it’s going to be different when we get to some other types of stages, with long distances and intense heat. I’m not so familiar with this type of territory, so we’ll see what happens.”
Sainz was on a mission to make up lost time after losing nearly 15 minutes on the SS2, while the Spaniard and his co-driver Lucas Cruz had a more promising day, it wasn’t without its problems.
“It was another good performance for us, even though it was once more a difficult day” said Sainz. “At the start of the stage we were right in the storm, so we had to drive in mud for about 60 kilometres. As soon as the stage dried, I found myself in Yazeed Al-Rahji’s dust. I eventually managed to get past him, but then there was another storm at the end of the stage”
Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz brought home their Toyota Hilux in fourth place to consolidate second place in the overall standings, 5 minutes 3 seconds behind Loeb and just 12 seconds ahead of the French duo Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret in their 2008 DKR.
Nasser Al-Attiyah finished the stage in third place and took the honours of the lead Mini All 4 Racing car, but it is was team-mate Mikko Hirvonen and French co-driver Michel Perin who remain ahead in the overall classification in fourth place.
Hirvonen, like Loeb, is on his début Dakar rally having retired from the World Rally Championship at the end of the 2014 season and is enjoying the rally so far. “Happy. I’m really happy with the way it went” enthused the Finn at the end of the second stage.
WRC regular Martin Prokop finished the day in twelfth place overall, while British driver Harry Hunt along with his German co-driver Andreas Schulz moved up a position in the overall standings to fifteenth place in their Mini, despite finishing eighteenth on the stage.
Toby Price headed the Bike category heading in to SS3 but the stage turned out to be one to forget for the Australian as he dropped down the order, finishing the day in ninth place overall.
“Everything went smooth yesterday and today was just chaos and hectic from the get go,” said Price. “The GPS said we had to find a waypoint, so myself and Reuben went that way then it locked us into a speed zone, and we tried to get out but it put us right back in,
“Trying to work out how to get out of it, I thought by then I had to speed to get back to the start so I thought I killed my Dakar hopes right there and then. The special started off really good, got through that first part really well and then after the fuelling I had a few issues with cars,” Price added.
With Price’s troubles dropping him down the order it was Stefan Svitko on his KTM who took the class lead; Hans Stacey continues to lead the Trucks in his MAN while Ignacio Casale remains in control on his Yamaha quad bike.