Peugeot dominate Dakar day four with clean sweep of podium positions
Team Peugeot-Total’s remarkable start to the 2016 Dakar Rally continued on stage four as Stéphane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb scored the three fastest times of the day. 11-time Dakar winner Peterhansel collected the stage win (his 33rd win in cars and 66th including bikes), beating Spain’s Sainz by 11 seconds and fellow Frenchman Loeb by a further 16 seconds. The fourth member of the Peugeot set-up, Cyril Despres, also had his foot down along the mountain tracks to finish fifth on the stage.
We’re now four days into the Dakar and every stage so far has been won by the fearsome Peugeot 2008DKR16. Nine-time WRC winner Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena increased their overall lead to 4m 48s following today’s timed special stage of 429km in Jujuy while the three other Peugeot crews all climbed the rankings.
Doing his best to keep pace with the Peugeots is defending Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari conceded a further 4m 30s to Loeb at the head of the race and now sits 11m 09s behind the Dakar debutant. Desert stalwart Giniel de Villiers is also finding it tough to match the speed being set by Loeb with the South African losing a further 8m 43s today.
Another speeding penalty ended up costing Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda a stage win once more. The Spaniard slips to third on the overall leaderboard despite going quickest two days on the trot.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Team quartet of Toby Price, Antoine Méo, Matthias Walkner and Jordi Viladoms all put in a solid shift to stay in touch of race leader Paulo Gonçalves. Dakar debutant Méo of France particularly impressed as he followed up yesterday’s fourth place with a sixth place finish on today’s stage. Iván Cervantes of Spain, also riding a KTM, gave up 11m 35s to Gonçalves while Portugal’s Hélder Rodrigues, riding a Yamaha, came home 7m 34s after the race leader.
On the quads Marcos Patronelli was able to put a rocky start behind him as he picked up his first stage win of the race. Argentina’s two-time Dakar winner was in imperious form on the loop stage in the north of his homeland. Qatar’s Mohamed Abu Issa finished 4m 12s behind Patronelli to continue his own rise up the overall classification.
It was another frustrating day for Team Kamaz Master as the serial winners of the truck race were unable to claw back time already lost to the leading pack. Three of the four Russian trucks entered into the race are driven by former Dakar winners so they know as well as anyone that this event is a marathon rather than a sprint.
Speaking of marathons, the conclusion of today’s stage comes with a twist as it marks the midway point of this Dakar’s first marathon stage. Mechanics are prohibited from working on cars, trucks, bikes and quads tonight as the riders and drivers are left to fend for themselves. Competitors must make sure everything is running smoothly before they set off on tomorrow’s route – crossing the border into Bolivia and racing at an ear-popping altitude of 4,600 metres above sea level.