It’s now a Peugeot one-two-three at the front of the Dakar Rally, but the event bit hard for Cyril Despres and David Castera, who hit a rock and severely damaged the right-rear of their 3008DKR Maxi. For the rest of the team, it was another strong day with Peugeot occupying the top three places both on the stage and overall.
Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena won their first stage of this 2018 Dakar to move up to second overall. The Franco-Monegasque pairing had a solid day, without encountering any major issues on the 330-kilometer stage, which contained one of the longest non-stop desert sections in Dakar history.
"It was fun today," stated Sebastien Loeb. "A long stage with plenty of dunes and quite a special start side by side along the beach. The terrain was tricky: The important thing was not to get stuck and I think a few people lost a bit of time in this stage. But luckily, we got through and won the stage. The incredible thing is that it was only by a minute, so we’re all still very close together and it’s really tight. Tomorrow we’ll be first on the road and the navigation will be tricky, so it will be important to stick near our team mates."
Carlos Sainz’s day got off to a bad start, when he and co-driver Lucas Cruz got stuck in the sand and then picked up a puncture. Once those hurdles had been overcome, they had a solid run to the finish and set the second-fastest time on the stage, making more progress up the leaderboard to third overall.
"It was a tricky start to the day as we got stuck immediately," said the Spaniard. "We lost seven or eight minutes but then we caught up with Nasser Al-Attiyah and got a puncture that we had to stop and change. Afterwards we were able to carry on and we had no further problems. As always on the Dakar, you have to be vigilant but at least end result was good for us today."
Stéphane Peterhansel/Jean-Paul Cottret have more than doubled their lead at the head of the field, despite a tricky stage that they said was far from perfect, with a couple of small setbacks. Nonetheless, their eventual third-fastest time underlined the experienced duo’s impressive consistency.
"First and foremost, I’m disappointed for my friend Cyril," reported Peterhansel. "For my part, it was quite stressful at the beginning as we started the stage side by side: It’s never easy when it’s like that! But we were in the lead by the time we got to the first canyon and that was good because then everyone else had to cope with the dust, rather than us. After that it was good, apart from one time when the tyre came off the rim, in the middle of the dunes and we lost time changing it because there was sand in the jack. Finally, we thought we had missed a way point, together with Carlos, and we went back to try and find it. Annoyingly, we were actually right the first time. So not a perfect stage, but we’re here and at the front."
Heartbreak for Cyril Despres/David Castera, who hit a rock halfway through the stage. Peugeot is currently doing everything possible to allow the car No. 308 to return to the bivouac and continue the race tomorrow, albeit with significant penalties. "I’m really not sure exactly what happened. We approached gently, braked, and went over a rock that somehow kicked up and ripped off the right-rear of the car, with a lot of damage. It can be fixed, but not until late at night. We’ll have to wait for the truck. What happened is hard to compute because it’s such a slow place: Not the sort of thing you would normally look out for," reported Despres.
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