Struggles on the dunes
The race route for the third stage consisted of a 4 kilometre connecting stage followed by a 243 kilometre special. As anticipated several of the racers had difficulties in this section of the race - one was Joan Barreda Bort who had done so well in the second stage. He hit trouble early on and lost a valuable 29 minutes which took him down to 18th in the overall standings. Two of the other stars of stage two had troubles as well, Matt Fish and Juan Pedro Garcia lost time on the dunes, taking Fish down to overall 31st.
Cyril Despres had a good third stage using his knowledge and experience to negotiate the route expertly and setting up the fastest time to the 29 kilometre checkpoint. This ride puts him first in the overall standings by 2 minutes and 51 seconds.
He was challenged and pushed however by Francisco 'Chaleco' Lopez who completed the stage on his KTM in a speedy 2 hours 37 minutes and 54 seconds, the fastest time of any of the motorcycles for this stage. 'Chaleco' Lopez beat Husqvarna's Paulo Goncalves by 1 minute and 8 seconds, to come in top of the third stage.
The overall top three after the third stage are Despres, Lopez and Pal Ullevalseter who comes in third just under 5 minutes behind Despres.
Despres had this to say about his performance in the third stage:
“I had a fairly good special. Nothing out of the ordinary, but I think I made significant progress in the general classification today.”
“I started in 12th place but I soon caught up with the leaders and I was at the front of the race from km 190 onwards. Considering that I started 20 minutes after Barreda and Pedrero, I think I did quite well!”
The Wacky Races - How many will make it to Santiago?
There are 449 vehicles in total racing in the Dakar Rally in this, its 34th year. This number is made up of 183 motorcycles, 153 cars, 38 quads and 75 trucks all determined to reach Santiago in Chile first on the 20th of January after a hazardous journey of 8400 kilometres. Good luck to them all hope they make it!