Leg three of the 2011 Dakar rally featured a special stage from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy, for the cars there was a 231 km road section, and a special stage of 500 km, for the bikes and quads a 231 km road section, and a 521 km...
Dakar 2011 - Leg 3: San Miguel de Tucuman - San Salvador de Jujuy
Leg three of the 2011 Dakar rally featured a special stage from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy, for the cars there was a 231 km road section, and a special stage of 500 km, for the bikes and quads a 231 km road section, and a 521 km special stage. The special stage for the cars, bikes and quads was split into two separately timed sections, the first section is a desert track, and the second goes through mountainous forested terrain.
For this reason the trucks didn't have to take part in the second section, as the organizers had deemed it to be too dangerous for the high trucks, as the windscreens are at the same level as the tree branches. Today 194 bikes and quads, 136 cars and 64 trucks started the third leg of the Dakar rally.
Cyril Despres still in the lead, but only just
An early start for the bikes, Cyril Despres (KTM), winner of the first two stages, started at 7.15 AM local time, but he encountered navigation problems and he immediately lost time. Despres about his very early mishap, "I was very careful during the first 10 kilometers and then after 11 kilometers I got it completely wrong. I didn't lose two hours, but several precious minutes." At the end of the first section of the special stage, Marc Coma (KTM) was leading the pack, 1:36 ahead of Paulo Goncalves (BMW), and 2:29 ahead of Olivier Pain (Yamaha), while Despres had reduced the gap to his rival Coma to 3.09.
After completing the neutralized section, the bikes started the second timed 102 km section of the day. Coma was able to keep his lead, and finished in first position, 2.21 ahead of Despres, and 3.36 ahead of Goncalves who became third, the latter had problems with his IriTrack, which cost him valuable time. Pain finished fourth in today's special stage, and was followed by Ruben Faria (KTM) in fifth place and Brazilian Rodrigues Filho (BMW) finished in sixth position.
Although Spaniard Coma (KTM) took his 12th stage victory in the history of the event, Frenchman Despres (KTM) is still leading the overall standings in the bike category, but Coma is now just 14 seconds behind him. A good performance by Coma, who was still 2.35 minutes behind Despres yesterday. They both have increased the gap to the number three, Portuguese Faria (KTM), who is now more than nine and a half minutes behind the leading duo. The top six is completed by BMW driver Portuguese Goncalves (4th), BMW driver Brazilian Rodrigues Filho (5th) and French Yamaha driver Pain (6th).
Coma about today's stage, "That was a really authentic Dakar day: the first part with lots of navigation, then more riding on the rest." He was happy with the end result, "I'm happy with where I am. I took advantage of a little navigation mistake by Despres. Of course it's important to win a special, but my aim is to win the rally".
Although his navigation error had cost him some time, Despres was nevertheless happy with the result. "I limited the damage, because I finished 20 seconds behind Coma. He must have gained 2 minutes 20 seconds on me. It's not huge amount of time, but I would've liked to have kept it for myself," the Frenchman said. The best American in the bike standings is still Jonah Street (Yamaha), but he tumbled from sixth to tenth position and is now more than 20 minutes behind the leaders.
Carlos Sainz locked into a battle with Nasser Al-Attiyah
Carlos Sainz (VW), the leader of the cars category, was the first to start the 500 km special stage at 10.11 AM. After completing 113 km, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (VW) was leading, 29" ahead of Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel (BMW) and 48" ahead of Sainz. After 179 km Al-Attiyah was still in the lead, but was now followed by Sainz, who by then had managed to overtake Peterhansel. After reaching the neutralized section after 226 km Al-Attiyah was still leading, followed by Sainz and Peterhansel.
The race was now on for the second timed section of the stage. After 471 km Al-Attiyah was still leading, and it was therefore no surprise he went on to win today's special stage, it is the Qatari's ninth stage victory. His VW team mate Sainz crossed the finish line in second position. Peterhansel took the honors for BMW, and finished in third position. Al-Attiyah had hoped he could gain more time on Sainz, and was disappointed when he learned Sainz had finished only 25 seconds behind him.
An unhappy Al-Attiyah about the problems he encountered today, "I'm very disappointed. We had exactly the same problem as yesterday. We completely lost power after 200 km. I don't know why. That's three days the same thing has happened." He was especially unhappy with the time he had lost, "I gained 1 minute 30 on Sainz in the first part, but I lost my lead on the technical section where you must always use 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear. We must fix the problem." He hinted the technical problems could frustrate him tomorrow as well, "I don't care about our time or the special stage victory. Tomorrow there will be dunes and soft sand and that will be a problem."
Al-Attiyah did take over Peterhansel's second place in the overall standings, and is now 3:34 behind Sainz, who is leading the Dakar rally for the third consecutive day. The rest of the top six has not changed, South African Giniel de Villiers (VW) is still in fourth position, followed by Polish BMW driver Krzystof Holowczyz (5th) and Argentinean BMW drivers Orlando Terranova is still in sixth position.
Spaniard Sainz was more or less happy with his day, "We had lost a minute and a half to Al Attiyah by the end of the first section, but in the end we made up most of the time lost by pushing more on the last section where there was less navigation." For Peterhansel the third day was all about damage limitation. "There was a little bit of rough terrain at the start with river beds that weren't easy to find because there were no tracks. We hesitated a bit and lost some time," he said. "Over these last three days, we've limited the damage. We're trying to look at where we're losing ground and where we're gaining it."
Robby Gordon had problems yesterday; today he finished in 17th position, 25 minutes behind the leader. His compatriot Mark Miller did a lot better, and finished in sixth position, 9:35 behind the leader. Miller was 16th yesterday in the cars standings but is now 12th, and Gordon who was 21st yesterday, has moved up to 17th position.
Chagin restores pecking-order
The trucks were only required to do the first timed section of today's special stage, and at 12.37 PM the winner of yesterday's second leg and leader in the truck standings Russian Firdaus Kabirov was the first to get his Kamaz truck on the road. After suffering mechanical problems yesterday, Russian Kamaz driver Vladimir Chagin was determined to make up for the time he lost yesterday. Chagin made no bones about it, and was in the lead again 71 km into today's stage, followed by Czech driver Al?s Loprais (Tatra) and his compatriot Kabirov, who by then had already lost 3'47 to Chagin.
After 113 kilometers into the stage, Chagin was 4'13 ahead of Loprais, and had extended the gap to Kabirov to 4'48. Chagin was unstoppable, and around 16.11 PM local time he crossed the finish line in first position, thus taking an incredible 54th stage victory. His colleagues and fans call him the 'Tsar' for a good reason, as he has not only won this stage, but also took the lead back in the truck category, and has convincingly put his Kamaz team mate back to second position, Kabirov is now 6'23 behind Chagin again.
Czech Tatra driver Loprais finished today in third position, and is now third overall, 6'50 behind Chagin. Russian Eduard Nicolaev (Kamaz) is now fourth in the truck standings, German Franz Echter (MAN) is in fifth position, and Russian Ilgizar Mardeev (Kamaz), is in sixth position.
Argentine quad party
By the end of the first timed section, Argentine brothers Alejandro and Marcos Patronelli, both driving for Yamaha, were in first and second position respectively, followed by countryman Sebastian Halpern (Yamaha) in third place. However, Argentinean Tomas Maffei (Yamaha) went on to win the stage, a surprise for everyone, as his IriTrack hadn't given his position for the last 100 km of the stage, and nobody knew he was still in the race.
Three Argentinean drivers won today's stage, and three Argentineans are now leading the quads category, Halpern is in first position, Alejandro Patronelli is in second place and Maffei is third, Czech driver Martin Plechati is fourth, and his compatriot Josef Machacek has lost his second position and is now fifth overall. Yamaha is currently in command of the top six in the quads category.
Gerard de Rooy, who abandoned the rally yesterday after he had injured his back, has arrived in the Netherlands for a thorough check-up. He has announced he will return to the Dakar rally at the end of this week as team manager of two other Iveco trucks, those of Belgium Hugo Duisters and Spaniard Pep Vila. De Rooy could not yet comment on whether his back injury will prevent him from participating in the Dakar Rally, or any other rally for that matter, in the future.
Today, Czech Tatra driver Martin Kolomy crashed heavily after 52 kilometers; the Dakar organization has until not issued any statements about the accident, but the team reports that Kolomy and his co-pilot Jaroslav Lamac have were airlifted to hospital. Their injuries appear serious but both were conscious.