Peugeot lions roar on Dakar stage two while some desert dreams turn to dust

The second stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally brought with it some of the biggest challenges of the year and dealt knockout blows to a few high-profile contestants. Taking each one of the Peruvian dunes in their stride were defending car race champions Team Peugeot Total as they locked out the stage two podium.

Opening the course today was the Toyota Hilux of Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) who were relying on their sand expertise to grow an even bigger gap at the front of the race. However, a bout of ‘sand dune sickness’ for Baumel hampered the charge and this morning’s leading duo ended the day falling back in the overall standings.

“The reason we lose a lot of time is because Mathieu got sick from the beginning and I had to take care about him.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah

The big winners in the car category on stage two turned out to be defending champions Team Peugeot Total who now have Cyril Despres (FRA)/David Castera (FRA) leading the race after they clocked today’s fastest time.

“This was a complicated stage with very high dunes, very hostile terrain. If you made mistakes out there you could lose a lot of time.” – Cyril Despres

The Peugeot 3008DKR Maxis of Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Jean Paul Cottret (FRA) and Sébastien Loeb (FRA)/Daniel Elena (MON) took the day’s remaining podium spots with the team’s fourth crew of Carlos Sainz (ESP) /Lucas Cruz (ESP) taking sixth on the stage despite Cruz also being sick.

“It was a real Dakar special, where you have to keep everything under control. The race starts now.” – Stéphane Peterhansel

Al-Attiyah may now be over 12 minutes behind new race leader Despres, but he doesn’t have to look too far around the bivouac to see how much worse his day could have been. Bryce Menzies (USA) and co-driver Pete Mortensen (USA) had made an encouraging start to their Dakar debut with a Top 5 placing on the opening stage. This good work counted for nothing though when the American pair’s MINI rolled out of the race just six kilometres into today’s special stage.

“When we hit the bump it just unloaded the rear and it went to the front bumper, we flipped six or seven times. It was not what I wanted to do at my first Dakar and I’m feeling really bad for the whole team.” – Bryce Menzies

Staying closest to the Peugeots were former Dakar champions Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (GER) who drove their Hilux to the stage’s fourth fastest time.

“We had three places where we had to turn around and look for the waypoint. It was really tricky.” – Giniel de Villiers

Today’s bike race was won by Joan Barreda (ESP) as the Honda rider attacked from the start to collect his 20th Dakar stage win. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders Matthias Walkner (AUT), Sam Sunderland (GBR), Toby Price (AUS) and Antoine Méo (FRA) were all able to stay within 10 minutes of Barreda’s time to remain in the mix in the overall standings.

“I started at the front so I was hoping that the tracks of the cars would help but they were really confusing. There were lines everywhere.” – Sam Sunderland

Fellow KTM rider Laia Sanz (ESP) holds 20th position in the general classification of the bike race after another solid ride in the sand of Peru.

“The navigation in the last part was tricky and I lost some more time, but we’re not doing too bad after this tough day.” – Laia Sanz

It’s a perfect start to the 2018 Dakar for Ignacio Casale (CHI) as the quad biker made it two stage wins from two. The 2014 Dakar showed impressive speed on the dunes of Isca to keep reigning quad champ Sergey Karyakin (RUS) at bay. The battle between these two rivals seems set to define the quad contest this year.

“I’m delighted with the race so far because I have been able to ride at a high pace but without taking big risks.” – Ignacio Casale

It hasn’t taken long for Team Kamaz Master to rise to the top of the truck standings. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) has already won the Dakar three times (twice as a driver and once as a crew mechanic) and now he’s in pole position to win it again as he holds first place.

The next challenge for Nikolaev and the rest of the competitors that remain in the race is the near 300-kilometre timed special stage between Pisco and San Juan de Marcona scheduled for tomorrow.