Sébastien Loeb set the quickest time on stage two of 2017 Dakar Rally and now heads the leaderboard. The 275km timed stage was the first real endurance test of the rally and it was the nine time world rally champion who took full advantage. His time of 2 hours 6 minutes was a 1 minute 23 seconds quicker than rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah.
“It was a very fast stage and I had good drive today. The car was working very well and when I had the chance I was able to push. Now we will move to stages where navigation will be more important and that’s a different type of challenge.” said Loeb.
This was enough to move the Peugeot driver into the lead of the rally with a gap of 28 seconds separating him and the Toyota. One second separated their team-mates Carlos Sainz and Ginel de Villiers in who came third and forth. Sainz meanwhile completes the podium, a minute and 28 seconds down on Al-Attiyah.
Further back, last year’s winner Stephane Peterhansel continued his cautious start in his Peugeot, nearly seven minutes of the pace of his team-mate.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile claimed that the high temperatures was affecting the performance of his Mini X-Raid as he was eight minutes slower than his former WRC arch rival. Overnight second place holder Xavi Pons, retired when he crashed and tore a wheel off of his Ford Ranger.
In the bikes, last year’s winner Toby Price hit the front, dominating the stage, winning by over three minutes from fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner.
“Today was all about speed on a lot of fast roads.” said Price. “I got caught up in a bit of dust with the first two riders I caught up with but other than that things went well. It wasn’t a tricky day for navigation but there were a lot of animals on the track. You can’t put a cow on the roadbook so when they’re popping up on you everywhere it becomes a difficult day. But I’m here at the finish line so I can’t complain.”
This moves Price into the lead of bikes category with a two minute 54 second gap separating him from Honda’s Paulo Goncalves. British KTM rider Sam Sunderland holds third position, 29 seconds behind Goncalves.
On the quads, local hero Pablo Copetti was nearly two minutes faster than Paraguay’s Nelson Sanabria, the two Yamaha riders dominating the stage. Copetti now heads the Quad’s standings by over four minutes from Brazilian Marcelo Medeiros, with France’s Axel Dutrie holding third.
In the trucks, Martin Van Den Brink’s Renault was quickest from Dmitri Sotnikov’s Kamaz and MAN’s Pieter Versluis.
Van Den Brink and Sotnikov were neck and neck in through the stage, but the Dutchman pulled away in the final kilometers and now leads the standings by over three minutes from his Russian opponent.
In the UTV class China’s Mao Ruijin was quickest by over two minutes from his Polaris team-mate, fellow Chinese Li Dongsheng and the two Chinese now head the leaderboard, with 55 seconds separating them.