Carlos Sainz Sr. took his first stage victory of the 2018 Dakar Rally to edge himself slightly closer to Peugeot Sport team-mate Stephane Peterhansel on Thursday, but the Frenchman still holds a considerable advantage heading into Friday’s rest day.
The days running took the competitors from the starting point in Arequipa in Peru to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, with the mammoth stage seeing 313-kilometres of timed running divided into two parts, either side of a 238-kilometre neutralised zone.
Sainz held the advantage through the first 118-kilometre section, and ended the second section even further clear, finishing the day four minutes and six seconds ahead of Peterhansel, and five minutes and five seconds clear of the leading Toyota Gazoo Racing SA machine of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Giniel de Villiers was only twenty-six seconds further back from his team-mate in fourth, with Cyril Despres making it three Peugeot’s inside the top five, although the Frenchman is well out of contention for overall honours thanks to his day four mishaps.
Mikko Hirvonen placed his X-Raid Mini into sixth position on the day ahead of Toyota’s Bernhard ten Brinke, while Lucio Álvarez (Toyota), Martin Prokop (Ford), and Jakub Przygoński (Mini) completed the top ten.
Peterhansel still holds an advantage of twenty-seven minutes and ten seconds overall from Sainz, while ten Brinke remains the leading Toyota in third, albeit one hour, twenty minutes and forty-one seconds back on the rally leader.
The first 119 kilometres of the stage were cancelled for the bikes class due to poor weather conditions, but Antoine Meo took the stage win for KTM, while Kevin Benavides now leads the class overall for the Monster Energy Honda Team.
Meo won the stage by thirty seconds from Benavides, but with overnight leader Adrien van Beveren finishing down in eighth, three minutes and twenty-seven seconds off the pace, it meant the Frenchman dropped behind Benavides in the overall standings by one minute and fifty-seven seconds heading into Friday’s rest day.
KTM rider Toby Price set the exact same time as Benavides on the day but was classified third, with Diego Duplessis fourth for Honda ahead of Daniel Oliveras Carreras of KTM, while Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla was sixth ahead of Daniel Nosiglia and van Beveren.
Matthias Walkner had been faster than van Beveren on the day but was handed a one-minute penalty post stage to relegate him down to eleventh behind Joan Barreda and Michael Metge, while Xavier de Soultrait had also been quicker than the Frenchman but was handed a two-minute penalty to drop him down to seventeenth.
The Quads were also forced to run on a shortened stage due to the weather, and it was Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli who secured his first stage win of this year’s rally, with the 2015 runner-up fending off fellow Argentine rider Pablo Copetti by one minute and fifty seconds.
Paraguayan Nelson Sanabria Galeano ended the day third fastest ahead of class leader Ignacio Casale, who now holds a forty-one minute and thirty seconds advantage over Alexis Hernandez heading into the rest day in Bolivia.
Hernandez finished the day seventh fastest, four minutes and twenty-eight seconds off the pace of Gonzalez Ferioli, but more importantly one minute and seventeen minutes off the pace of Casale, and behind French riders Simon Vitse and Bruno da Costa.
Iveco driver Federico Villagra took his second stage victory of the 2018 Dakar Rally on Thursday, with the Argentine finishing two minutes and forty-six seconds clear of Martin Kolomy.
Villagra, who is class leader Eduard Nikolaev’s closest challenger overall, managed to reduce his deficit by five minutes and twenty-five seconds on the day, but still sits fifty-two minutes and forty seconds adrift heading into Friday’s rest day.
Ton van Genugten ended third fastest on the day, twelve seconds adrift of Kolomy, while Dmitry Sotnikov and Martin Macik finished fourth and fifth, just ahead of Nikolaev and Siarhei Viazovich.
Patrice Garrouste took his second stage win in three days for Polaris, but Reinaldo Varela’s grip on the rally increased as he gained almost half an hour on his closest rival with his second place.
Garrouste was two minutes and twenty-nine seconds faster than Varela on the run to the Bolivian capital, but Juan Carlos Uribe Ramos was thirty-one minutes and twenty-eight seconds off the stage winner, and the gap between himself and Varela extended to thirty-two minutes and seven seconds as a result.
Leo Larrauri placed fourth on the day, with Claude Fournier in fifth ahead of Jose Luis Pena Campo, Anibal Aliaga and Jose Jorge de Barros Sawaya.