SAN SALVADOR DE JUJUY, ARGENTINA – What started as an exciting, ding-dong battle on Stage 3, as former winners Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing SA) and Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) went head-to-head on the 364 km stage, turned to disappointment for Toyota Gazoo Racing SA when Al-Attiyah damaged the suspension on his Toyota Hilux.
Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel initially trailed Peterhansel, but then plied on the pressure by building a lead of nearly three minutes. This gave them the outright lead of the Dakar, and they were clearly on course to notch up a second stage win on this year’s race.
Unfortunately, their spectacular charge ground to a halt when they ripped the right rear wheel off their vehicle, after driving through a deep hole between waypoints seven and eight.
“It was a fantastic stage for us,” said Al-Attiyah after reaching the bivouac at San Salvador de Jujuy. “Right until we damaged the car. Up to that point, we were enjoying the race against Peterhansel, and we were very happy to see that we were setting the pace in the middle part of the stage. In the end the result is very disappointing for us, but the car ran as good as ever and we are looking forward to challenging for stage wins as the race continues.”
Teammates Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz also lost time on today’s stage, though their deficit was restricted to 36 minutes, as opposed to the two hours lost by Al-Attiyah/Baumel.
“We initially lost time with navigation, but once we found the correct route, we were able to hold our position,” said the man from Stellenbosch after the stage. “Unfortunately we then had a fuel pressure problem near the end of the stage, and lost more time working through the issue. We got going again, and managed to complete the stage.”
Nani Roma posted the best time by a Toyota Hilux on the stage, which was eventually won by Peterhansel. Roma finished the stage in 8th place, 13:16 behind the winner.
Up next is Stage 4, which sees the Dakar depart Argentina for five days of racing in Bolivia, as well as the rest day in La Paz. The stage itself starts in Argentina, before crossing into Bolivia, and features a total distance of 521 km. The race continues to climb onto the high plains of Bolivia, and Stage 4 peaks at an altitude of 4,000 m.