"Chaleco" overtaken by Goncalves, Peterhansel triumphant
After tackling the first dunes on the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile, Francisco Lopez thought he had won his fourth stage on the Dakar. But the time taken by Paulo Goncalves, 4th to finish the special, was modified to take account of the assistance he gave to Olivier Pain, who crashed at the 231 km point. The Portuguese rider picks up his first victory on the Dakar as a result. In the car race, a BMW also won the day, with a 56th special stage victory for Stephane Peterhansel, who is starting to threaten the position of Carlos Sainz, still overall leader. The truck race witnessed a slight change: Chagin lost his first place in the general standings to his lieutenant in the Kamaz team, Firdaus Kabirov.
Francisco Lopez has made a habit of winning at least one stage at home since the Dakar has been hosted by his country. Last year, "Chaleco" missed out on this prestigious stage due to a navigational mistake. This time, after a faultless performance all along the 423 km of the Day's special, the Chilean fans' favourite offered himself a royal descent down to the now famous finish at Iquique, with its 3 in 10 gradient and many spectators. Success seemed to be on the side of Lopez, because when it came to totting up, he appeared to have won the stage by one second from Frans Verhoeven. The Dutchman could thus harbour legitimate regrets about the crash he suffered only 2 kilometres from the finishing line, condemning him to second place. However, in the end he picked up third place, because Paulo Goncalves benefited from a correction of his time to win his first special. It is also the first victory for BMW on the Dakar since the era of Richard Sainct, who triumphed on a German-made bike in 1999 and 2000.
The state of play in the general standings requires a fair bit of explanation after today's stage. Firstly, one of the Top 10 left the race just at the moment when he was at its forefront. Olivier Pain, who had just put in the best provisional time after 218 km, crashed at the 231 km point. With a broken wrist, the Yamaha rider was airlifted by the medical helicopter from the race route. The accident had a knock-on effect on the positions gained in Iquique. In fact, Marc Coma, who finished 13 minutes behind Lopez due to a fall at the start of the special (after 80 km) stopped and gave up some time, like Goncalves, to help Olivier Pain. Provisionally 2nd in the general standings, the Spaniard benefitted from a correction to his result, enabling him to retain his position as leader, 10'14" ahead of Despres. Bearing in mind that the title holder received a ten minute penalty due to a lack of attention to the starting procedures on stage 4, the differences gained on the track are minimal between the two favourites. Lopez lies in 3rd position, 18'32" behind Coma, whilst the day's hero is in 4th position, trailing the race leader by 21'42".
The name of Patronelli has reappeared at the top of the quad general standings. After the withdrawal of Marcos, the winner in 2010, his older brother Alejandro grabbed a stage victory that enabled him to regain the lead in the event. His countryman Thomas Maffei, 2nd today, trails him by 1'27".
In the car category, the first dunes of the rally also gave Stephane Peterhansel an idea of what could be possible on his terrain of choice. Taking advantage of a navigation mistake by both of his rivals, Sainz and Al-Attiyah, the Frenchman started to open up a gap over a long section which he covered alone in the lead, obtaining a lead of 2'45" at the midway point. However, the BMW driver, who is not infallible, was nearly caught at the final CP not long before the finish. This is where "Peter" started a festival of driving, reaching the finishing line with a lead of 1'24" over Al-Attiyah and 3'15" over Sainz. The Spaniard, who made the most of the Argentinean stages, and who was rewarded for his driving prowess at the limit of what is reasonable, holds on to the lead in the general standings, 2'26" ahead of Peterhansel. With this first victory in 2011 for the X-Raid team, the BMW X3 also climbs up a rung on the ladder, because Nasser Al-Attiyah trails Sainz by 2'33".
Whilst Giniel De Villiers, 4th placed today, is still in with a shout for a place on the final podium, the gaps are starting to open up with the other pretenders. Guerlain Chicherit had already but his ambitions on the back-burner after his setbacks on the first day, but the series of mishaps continues for him. After 137 km, the Mini Countryman driver got stuck in a rut on what seemed a rather safe manoeuvre. His X-Raid team-mate, Leal Dos Santos, lent help to extract him from this sticky situation, but Chicherit and Perin struggled up to the stage finish, trailing their team leader by 30 minutes. In the general standings, behind "Peter" and the Race Touaregs, Krzysztof Holowczyc is maintaining an honourable performance level, but is 47' behind Sainz, whilst Orlando Terranova, still in 6th, trails the leader by almost an hour.
In the truck race, Vladimir Chagin seemed to have some sort of hangover from his birthday. After his third success yesterday, the title holder lost more than 20 minutes on the day's special and lost his lead in the general standings to his Kamaz team-mate, Firdaus Kabirov, who picked up his second special victory since the start of this edition of the Dakar. The Russian two times winner (in 2005 and 2009) now possesses a lead of 13' over Chagin and 25' over Ales Loprais in his Tatra.