Another dramatic day at Dakar Rally 2017 with Al-Attiyah, Price and Sainz all out of contention.
Things can change in a blink of an eye at the Dakar Rally and after Nasser Al-Attiyah’s confirmed retirement earlier in the day, defending motorbike champion Toby Price joined him in exiting the brutal race with Team Peugeot star Carlos Sainz battling back from the brink of abandonment.
Thursday’s 416 kilometre special stage from San Salvador de Juluy in Argentina to Tupiza in Bolivia, the longest timed section so far, again took the drivers and riders above 3500 metres.
With dangerous sand dunes and tricky navigation to deal with as well, many got lost along the way.
After being set to land another stage win having recovered from losing time earlier in the day, Price’s race ended after 371 kilometres of Stage 4. The Australian fell heavily and had to be airlifted to hospital where it was confirmed he suffered a break to his left femur.
His retirement ensures there will be a new winner to the motorbike race this year. Another KTM Factory Team rider, Austrian Matthias Walkner, took the win two minutes ahead of Joan Barreda, but the Spaniard still leads the overall standings.
Walkner said: “If we are fair, I had it much easier because I could see more tracks. I felt pretty good on the bike, but I didn’t think it was enough for victory. The bad thing is that Toby crashed. I stopped with him until they (the medical team) told me that he was not going to be able to continue. Health is the most important thing and I hope that he’s OK.”
Frenchman Cyril Despres recorded his first victory at the Dakar behind the wheel of a car and took a big chunk of time out of his rivals in the process.
The big story of the day on four wheels came late in the day though when 2010 winner Sainz rolled his car and ended up in a ravine, leaving him waiting for assistance and bringing a premature end to his victory hopes. He did manage to get back underway, but lost more than two hours to his countryman Despres.
After a 1-2-3 on Wednesday, Sainz wasn’t the only Team Peugeot driver to hit big trouble with Stéhane Peterhansel losing 15 minutes having taken a track in the wrong direction and Sébastien Loeb coming in 22 minutes down the road after engine trouble.
Despres, now leading the overall standings, said: “It’s pretty amazing to win a stage after only three Dakars in a car. We started in some small dunes at high altitude and the car had maybe 20, 30 or 40 percent less power. After the beginning we were leading, then Carlos (Sainz) overtook us after 6 km and we followed him for the whole day. But unfortunately on a twisty track he made a mistake and he rolled the car.”
Peterhansel added: “For us it was a really bad day. On the last note for the navigation, we got completely lost. I went into a big hole in a river and got stuck for twenty minutes. I damaged the steering a little bit and we broke a wheel. So, it’s not really a good day, but compared to Carlos, maybe it’s a little bit better.”
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Red Bull Media