If it had not already delivered an incredible set of twists, turns and controversies so far, Dakar 2018 really showed its fangs on Tuesday to quite literally once again turn the race on its head. The drama started on Monday, when despite the day’s stage being cancelled, there was enough controversy to make world headlines as quad rider Kees Koolen accused race leader of a hit and run accident and the Spaniard was docked 10 minutes for his efforts.
Tuesday’s car day started as a straight fight between second and third men Stephane Peterhansel’s Peugeot and Nasser Al Attiyah’s Toyota, although the Frenchman gradually opened the gap on the Qatari to arrive at the neutralisation point 2 minutes 30 ahead. Giniel de Villiers was third for Toyota from race leader Sainz, who’s advantage was down to 45 minutes over Al Attiyah and 50 over Peterhansel, following his penalty and thanks to the sheer pace of the second and third men. De Villiers meanwhile closed right up to fourth overall teammate Bernhard ten Brinke.
Peterhansel duly stormed home to the stage win, but Al Attiyah lost half an hour in the stage to let de Villiers grab second from Sainz, A Qassimi’s private Peugeot, Ten Brinke, Despres and the delayed Nasser. That allowed Peterhansel into second overall, 50 minutes behind Sainz with Attiyah down to third, 22 minutes behind and 10 minutes clear of ten Brinke, but with de Villiers just 33 seconds further back…
TreasuryOne Amarok rookies Hennie de Klerk and Gerhard Schutte were meanwhile enjoying a productive day at the office and were running 28th at the termination point.
The big drama of the day went down in the bike race where all went smoothly in the run up to a neutralisation point three-quarters of the way into the stage as overnight leader Argentine home hero Kevin Benavides’ Honda led the way, 3 minutes clear of Aussie Toby Price on a KTM. Frenchman Adrien van Beveren, who had started the day 22 seconds off the lead on his Yamaha, clawed back 40 seconds to prune his days deficit to 6 minutes behind Benavides and ahead of KTM men, Matthias Walkner and Anthoine Meo and Joan Barreda on a Honda.
Then the proverbial quite literally hit the fan almost immediately racing resumed as first Benavides, Price and Meo, and then Barreda and top ten runners, teammate Ricky Brabec and Stefan Svitko on a KTM all got horribly ost. Only van Beveren and Walkner found the right road as the rest all lost upwards of 35 minutes to tumble down the order and completely reshuffle what had been a thrillingly close overall motorcycle leaderboard.
Then just as he was about to ride to a compeling stage win to take the overall lead, van Beveren crashed heavily out of the race just 3km from the finish. So Walkner won the day from local hero Pablo Quintanila, Farres Guell and a gaggle of lesser known riders who had found the right way through the drama to record a long list of Dakar personal best finishes. Barreda came in 14th behind lady rider Lala Sanz and 38 minutes after Walkner, while Benavides was 47 minutes behind, Price 49, Brabec 57 minutes and Meo 1 hour adrift.
After all that Walkner. leads the bikes overall for KTM by 40 minutes over Honda duo Barreda and Benavides and Guell’s KTM, all of whom sit within 10 minutes of each other, with the KTMs of Price and Meo next up. Of the South African riders, David Thomas was lying 64th, Willem du Toit 71st, Donovan van de Langeberg 73rd and Gerry van der Byl 94th on the road.
With Dakar now heading toward the finish in Cordoba on Saturday, Wednesday’s 280km 11th stage from Belén to Chilecito along the Andean escarpment via Fiambalá could be a punishing day if it is anything near as hot as Tuesday’s 43C conditions. That should make the sand soft and the going even tougher. And following today’s dramas, who knows what can still go down — once again proving that Dakar will never be done until that fat lady sings.