Number 4 for Faria, Sainz breaks away
Since his first appearance on the Dakar, Ruben Faria has won a special each time he has taken part. After losing out on victory on the first stage due to a penalty, Cyril Despres's water carrier won today's special, ahead of his countryman Helder Rodrigues. On four wheels, Stephane Peterhansel's momentum was halted by a series of punctures and he now trails Carlos Sainz by almost 15 minutes in the general standings. A minor revolution shook the truck race with a victory for Ales Loprais, bringing to a close a series of 24 consecutive stage victories by the Kamaz team.
Everyone is aware of the historical reputation of Portugal's sturdy navigators of yore, who contributed to discovering the Americas some 500 years ago. Their distant descendents, Ruben Faria and Helder Rodrigues reacquainted themselves with this conquering attitude on the approach to Arica, the day after the stage won by Paulo Goncalves. However, it was not patriotic feeling that drove Faria to triumph today, but his sense of duty. Taking starter's orders for the special this morning in 7th place, the partner of Cyril Despres strove to catch up with his team leader as soon as possible to carry out his role of guardian angel. Beforehand, though, Faria had to catch and overtake his countryman but also rival, Helder Rodrigues. However, the Yamaha rider had also decided to pull out all the stops, picking up the best provisional times until the midway point of the stage. It was on the second part of the route that the Despres-Faria duo started to make progress. The situation was uncomfortable for the title holder, who felt worrying vibrations coming from the engine of his KTM, but the results continued to go in Faria's favour. On the finishing line, he picked up the best time with a lead of 50" over Helder Rodrigues. Another Portuguese-speaker, Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho, 12th in 2009, was however force to exit the race, after fracturing his collar bone during a crash.
In the battle for the top of the general standings, the minute regained by Despres brings him to within 8'48" of Marc Coma. The leader at the rest day now has a reduced advantage, in light of the dense programme of sand that awaits the bikers after Arica. The issue of the other places on the podium is also far from settled, because "Chaleco" Lopez, still 3rd, lost a significant amount of his lead over his pursuers. Helder Rodrigues (4th) is only 5 minutes behind, and Faria is almost as threatening, a little more than 7 minutes behind. Such concerns are now very far off for David Casteu, who lost more than five hours to his rivals in the previous day's stage. Now his only hope is to put his Sherco in the limelight by grabbing stage victories.
Mathematically, Alejandro Patronelli has a good reason to rejoice on arrival at the end of the stage in Arica, where he finished with a time that sits him comfortably on top of the quad general standings. However, the lead of 16'31" over Thomas Maffei could be whittled down by a penalty, since the older Patronelli brother slowed down too late on arriving in a restricted speed zone. As a result, his day's hard work is under the threat of being ruined by this sanction.
The rest day in Arica will give Stephane Peterhansel the opportunity to regain a winning attitude after the avalanche of setbacks that befell his X3 in the day's long special. It all started so well for the Frenchman, who continued his mission to regain time with a certain amount of success, because he enjoyed the best provisional times until the midway point, with a potential gain of 1'15" on Sainz. However, this fine-looking performance suddenly turned into a nightmare: after a navigational error which lost him several minutes, Stephane Peterhansel was halted four times by punctures. At the finishing line, his deficit in relation to Carlos Sainz, the day's winner, totalled 12'25".
When "Peter" does not throw a spanner in the works of the Volkswagens' performance, the finishing positions are covered in the team's blue livery. Behind Carlos Sainz, who picked up his 21st stage victory on the event and distanced the threat of the X-Raid team leader, Nasser Al-Attiyah continued to keep the pace, because he only lost 9 seconds to his colleague, regaining 2nd place in the general standings, 2'42" behind Sainz. The other two Race Touareg III, driven by Giniel De Villiers (3rd) and Mark Miller (4th), were the only cars that finished within 10 minutes of Sainz.
The truck race witnessed an historic episode between Iquique and Arica, with the victory of Ales Loprais. Taking advantage of a quiet performance by Vladimir Chagin today, the Czech driver especially dominated Firdaus Kabirov, leader of the general standings, on the second half of the day's route. At the finishing line, his lead of 3'55" over the winner in 2005 and 2009 may seem minimal, but Tatra put a halt to a series of 24 consecutive special victories by the Kamaz drivers which started in Copiapo on the Dakar 2009. Perseverance has paid off for Ales Loprais, who won his only other special stage on the Dakar in 2007 in Tambacounda.