Barreda repeats, Al-Mutaiwei gains breathing room
“It was a beautiful special stage, something from a real rally raid,” commented recognizance scout Stephan Le Bail, outside the Abu Mingar bivouac as he prepared to set off again for his work as rally trailblazer. “It’s a real pleasure to find such symbolic situations: sands, rows of dunes, navigation…,” added Pierre Lartigue, charged with driving the recognizance car. And the competitors got more than their fair share of sand today. Joan Barreda seems to be riding on another planet aboard his Husqvarna, and he was dominant once again today: “The bike was working very well again, and it’s the same one we will use for the Dakar,” the Catalan rider affirmed. The competition, and the KTM riders in particular, again seemed shocked by the outright speed of the Husqvarna.
As was the case in stage one, Paulo Goncalves was second fastest, 2'24'' behind, completing Husqvarnas third double in the first three stages. Jakub Przygonski was third fastest, but his teammate Marek Dabrowski failed to finish the stage, breaking both of his wrists in a crash. “Kuba” commented at the finish: “The special was beautiful, complete, difficult, and had all the necessary ingredients from our sport. The Husqvarnas are very fast, and it’s hard to match their pace.”
Suffering some bad luck on the day was Jordi Viladoms: the engine in his KTM began to lose power some 150 km into the stage. “After refueling, we tried to fix the problem at the assistance point, but we couldn’t get it done. Luckily I managed to finish the special stage, riding on my own.” The engine will now be changed by his mechanic, giving the Catalan the opportunity to defend his second place in the World Championship standings. Barreda now leads the overall standings with a gap of 5’41” over his teammate Goncalves and 12'48” on Przygonski.
Khalifa Al-Mutawei claws back some minutes
After having his lead reduced to nine minutes yesterday, Khalifa Al Mutaiwei could hardly relax as he started this morning’s special stage. But in the end the roles were reversed, and the driver from the Emirates gained a further nine minutes on Jean Louis Schlesser. The Frenchman explained at the finish: “We got stuck in a tight valley between two dunes. The front end was buried, and we were trying to find a way out. To avoid any potential problems, Konstantin (Zhiltsov) placed his helmet atop the previous dune; without that, Al Mutaiwei would have come down on top of us for sure.” This problem cost Schlesser 15 minutes, leaving the way clear for Al Mutaiwei. “It was a very good day,” Khalifa commented at the finish. “We saw the helmet on top of the dune, and we thought it was an injured bike rider, but once over the summit we saw the blue buggy. I then quickly moved to the right to avoid finding myself in the same situation,” concluded the theMini All4 Racing X-Raid driver for the Fazza Cross Country Rally Team.
Régis Delahaye gained one position in the overall standings: third last night, the driver of the MD Racing buggy isn’t making any predictions, but taking it day by day along with his navigator Alex Vinoq.
Russian driver Boris Gadasin had his best stage of the rally, third on the day and now fourth overall.
There were no problems for the Toyota Auto Body of Mitsuhashi – Guehennec, fifth overall, and it was another strong day for Michele Cinotto – Fulvio Zini (Dessoude Junke), now solidly in seventh place.
Forced to retire after suffering numerous mechanical issues was Rocco Anaclerio-Ringo DJ and Maurizio Dominella (Fornasari): after having already changed his transmission twice, it failed yet again today.
Tomorrow’s fourth stage will be a ring around the Abu Mingar bivouac. Two special stages are scheduled, the first 215 kilometers in length, and the second 248 kilometers.