Arequipa, the second most populous city in Peru, lies at the foot of the Misti volcano and, although today's special took place somewhere else, the Dakar saw an eruption turn the various classifications on their heads. Today, the competitors raced far to the north, in the Duna Grande and Duna Argentina areas near San Juan de Marcona, before moving higher (2,000 masl) in the Cobrepampa region, where fiendish navigation put paid to the hopes of Joan Barreda. Later on, sections of fesh-fesh put handling skills to the test in the third part of the stage, which alternated between fast stretches and the Acarí dunes.
Xavier de Soultrait beat the odds after two difficult days and turned the tribulations of his adversaries to his advantage in a masterful performance during today's diabolical stage. The Yamaha rider defeated Pablo Quintanilla by a whisker to claim his first Dakar stage win, with the Chilean taking the overall lead by a comfortable margin.
The car classification also saw quite a few changes, with Giniel De Villiers and Carlos Sainz running into trouble. Stéphane Peterhansel, on the other hand, soared to his 42nd Dakar win in a car, with runner-up Nasser Al-Attiyah moving into the overall lead. Yesterday's winner, Sébastien Loeb, finished over 42 minutes back.
Meanwhile, in the SxS category, Gerard Farrés got to grips with his new vehicle and took his maiden win in the class, beating his former motorbike rival and new overall leader "Chaleco" López. Meanwhile, Jeremías González Ferioli ended Nicolás Cavigliasso's victorious streak in the quad category and grabbed his first triumph this year ahead of his countryman, who nevertheless retains a comfortable lead.
The general classification also remained unchanged in the truck category despite the best efforts of 2014 champion Andrey Karginov, who handily beat Federico Villagra today.
Aron Domżała calls himself a gentleman driver and he clearly has the driving skills to back it up. The Polish rookie is learning lots of things fast and without making mistakes. This approach has propelled Toyota's 29-year-old driver to the top 10 overall (best rookie) following his eighth place in the stage to Arequipa. It is worth keeping an eye on Domżała for the rest of the rally… and the years to come!
Joan Barreda has an impressive assortment of Dakar stage wins, but the only thing he added to his collection today, two days after clinching his 23rd special, was another calamity. He had already suffered injuries, mechanical problems and critical navigational mistakes before, but this time he encountered an entirely different setback at km 143. The Spaniard plunged down a steep descent, only to become stuck at the bottom of a basin without being able to get his Honda out. After searching in vain for a way out, the hitherto overall leader gave up and called for a helicopter to evacuate him. It is the fourth time in nine Dakar starts that he has failed to finish the rally.
Stat of the day
75. The number of Stéphane Peterhansel stage wins in the Dakar. Boasting 33 victories on a motorbike and 42 in a car after his demonstration on the road to Arequipa, the Frenchman is more than ever part of the history of the race as the one and only "Monsieur Dakar".
Quote of the daY: "A lot of chaos"
"Definitely, it was difficult with the fog. For me, the road book was more or less good, but the problem was on the plateau, with the fog, you couldn't see. This was the issue so… You really couldn't see two/three metres in front of you. Finally, I stopped and took my goggles off and I was able to see a bit better. Yeah, a lot of chaos, after that everyone was in a group and everyone was going in front. But yeah, I'm sure we have many more days to come. This is the Dakar, it's what it's all about, tough times and up and downs, some carnage in the stage. Really, I just try to take each day as it comes […] and try to avoid mistakes."
Source Dakar Rally's official press release