After two second positions, Ales Loprais takes a tight third in Stage 3 and stays only 5 seconds adrift of Kabirov.
The stage from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy was another one of the very new. It made a varied track through mountains gian red canyons, steppes etc and it was shortened for the trucks as scheduled. The second part, run by bikes and cars, was too technical and forest branches could make damage to the cabs of trucks.
The running of the special offered already a traditional menu: that is a close battle of Chagin, Loprais and Kabirov. Chagin clearly decided to take back the time lost the day before when his rear wheel got to flames and he gradually extended his lead to almost seven minutes. Ales loprais held the second place for the whole special, keeping a gap ahead of Kabirov of about 20-40 seconds. At the end of the Stage, kabirov pushed hard and Ales was slowed down by a group of slower cars. It was the very end of the stage and passing would have been too risky. So, overall, Ales dropes to third place but only 5 seconds adrift of kabirov. The fourth truck, German Echter at the wheel of a MAN, drives some 35 minutes adrift of the race leader. These tight gaps refer to a fierce battle, as opposed to Dakar 2010 where already stage 3 sent competitors to dunes.
"Today it was one of the most magnificent stages I have ever driven, over high mountains, canyons and rocks like from novels of Karl May, from green steppes to beautiful lakes, with high altitude differences. From the very beginning we chased with kabirov who started ahead of us. We made our way to the sight distance and kept it until the end of the stage when we got stuck behind the group of small cars. Passing at the end of the stage would have been too risky, so I slowed down and kabirov grabbed our second place. But never mind, the whelo desert of Atacama is ahead of us and real difeerences will be made there. Over here, we can only lose and that is why it is necessary to stay really focused," Ales Loprais said.
It was the young Kamaz driver, Nikolaev, to finish fourth, ahead of Echter and the water carrier of kamaz, mardeev. Both remaining trucks of Team de Rooy made a decent result in TOP 10, whereas another tatra driver, Andre Azevedo of Brasil, lost some time due to small technical troubles.
In Stage 4, all competitors will cross the Andes to Chile and awaiting them is the highlight of the rally, the Atacama desert, which is to host six gruelling specials where most probably the race will be decided.
-source: Jiri Vintr