It’s only stage 3 of The Dakar Rally 2014 and we’re starting to see the numbers of competitors whittle down.  During the journey from San Rafael to San Juan, Argentina all the racers had to deal with sweltering heat and high elevation.  Along with the physical strain of maneuvering the complicated terrain and dealing with daily mishaps proved to be too much for some.  Quite simply, the Withdrawals List is growing and some of the names added to it have been surprising.

Dakar Rally 2014 Stage 3
Michael Metge flies over the Dunas El Nihuil during the Dakar RAlly 2014 (PHOTO: FREDERIC LE FLOCH / DPPI – 017)

Dakar Rally Fans to the Rescue!

American privateer rider, #167 Peter Hardy has bowed out of his very first Dakar Rally.  This video was captured by one of the bystanders who rushed to his aid after the bike caught fire.  You can hear people shouting, “La mochilla!” which means backpack in Spanish because Hardy’s was on fire.  An attempt was made to start the bike but it caught fire again, which the bystanders quickly extinguished using the abundant sands of the Dunas El Nihuil.  We’re so happy to see that Hardy wasn’t harmed in the incident and commend the fans for springing into action so quickly!  This isn’t the first time that locals have assisted or rescued rally raid competitors and we’re sure it won’t be the last.

#186 Kevin Muggleton has also withdrawn from contention.  His selfie was featured not only in our stage 1 recap and on NBC Sports Network’s Dakar Rally Series too.  Among other things, his Twitter feed provided some valuable insight into the race from the riders’ point-of-view.  Unfortunately #346 Peter Hajas and Kevin Selchow with their Brenthel Industries Buggy are on the Withdrawals List too.  The most important thing is that they’re all okay.  The Dakar Rally has proven fatal for some over the years.  Vehicles can be easily replaced, but not people.  We hope to see them racing again soon.

His Name is Roma, Nani Roma.

Stage 3 proved to be too much for many racers but a greater number conquered it and in grand style too.  For example, Spain’s #304 Nani Roma who has won the race before on two wheels, proved that he’s more than capable of stepping out of #300 Stéphane Peterhansel’s shadow on the Monster Energy X-Raid Team.  Speaking of Peterhansel and Cottret, they were plagued by tire punctures like many rider and drivers along this stage.  Then to top it all off, they lost their sense of direction and valuable time in the process, finishing the day 29th in the stage and 5th overall.  Although we’re still in the first week, this division is being hotly contested especially by the Mini team members.  Half of the cars in the top ten finishers were Minis.

DAKAR 2014 Stage 3
Nani Roma drove a perfect Dakar Rally 2014 Stage 3 (PHOTO FREDERIC LE FLOCH / DPPI)

The rest was comprised of two Toyotas then one Haval SUV, Ford HRX SUV and SMG.  #303 Carlos Sainz has showed up looking very trim and despite some issues with other racers about being in the way, he and Timo Gottschalk have been very relevant in this race.  There’s no talk about possible winners without including this team.  Americans #305 Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch cracked the top ten finishing 6th despite carrying all the problems he’s had so far, and moved up in the general rankings from 58th  to 41st.  Although they’re less of a long shot than the day before, they’re still a ways off from looking like a threat to anybody in the top ten.  #318 BJ Baldwin and Quinn Cody showed improvement too going from 80th to 68th and finished the stage 42nd.  All of those chaps have a lot of work to do if they hope to take home any Dakar Rally trophies.

Marathon Men

For the bikes and quads had this was the first of two marathon stages along the race route.  What that means is that at the end of the day, competitors will overnight at a separate bivouac set up for them where they will receive no assistance from their teams.  They will have to be their own mechanics and rely upon their rivals for assistance.  #1 Cyril Despres swapped engines with Orlen Team rider Marek Dabrowski because of a serious gearbox issue during the marathon stage last year.  The riders will have to do what they can until reaching the bivouac at the end of stage 4.  Hopefully they wouldn’t have broken anything so badly that they can’t be fixed but who knows?  As if this race couldn’t get any harder.  The mercy is that the special stage was shortened to 243km because of unstable terrain.  The Dakar Rally officials will call off a stage as soon as the route becomes too dangerous, no matter what.

Spain’s #3 Joan Barreda Bort has been dominating so far.  He not only completed the special stage first, but cemented his 13+ minute lead on the overall standings.  Despres and fellow Spaniard #2 Marc Coma follow him respectively on both ranks.  #22 Alain Duclos of the Samsung Sherco Rally Factory team has made quite an impression this year.  He’s stayed in the top five for the first three stages and maintained his fourth place overall.  Duclos races for France although he’s originally from Côte d’Ivoire and hasn’t been able to finish the race better than sixth since his first Dakar Rally in 2000.  It looks like he’s rewriting his own history this time around.  Another rider who’s making personal history is Texas-based engineer #92 Mike Johnson, who’s still battling along in 107th place overall.  By the end of stage 3, he was the only American biker still in the rally.

The Dutchmen are Flying

#506 Andrey Karginov snagged a stage win but it wasn’t enough to regain the overall lead for Russia’s Kamaz Master.  #501 Gérard De Rooy and #508 Marcel Van Vliet still have a stranglehold on the first and second spots.  Karginov is third and 39:10 behind the leader.  If they’re hoping to pull another clean sweep of the podium, then they’re going to have to put in some serious work in the days ahead.

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Trakker Iveco #516 driven by Pep Vila Roca passes Team Desert Pro Racing’s #436 Toyota HiLux 4×4 (Photo Credit: Iveco)

It was very tough. When we had to stop behind all the cars we were on the small bumps and it kills you. You get shaken; your heart, your kidneys… we felt everything. We drove a good race. We played it safe and didn’t have any punctures. Suddenly Nikolaev passed us very quickly, so he must have put some pepper in his ass, and I couldn’t keep up with him. But 15 km later he broke down with two front wheels completely broken, so he ran out of good luck. We drove the same race and we’re happy with the result. There’s a long way yet, but it was good. – Gérard De Rooy (Iveco)

Stage 4 San Juan to Chilecito was completed on January 8, 2014.  Our recap is coming very soon.  You can also follow along with The Dakar Rally official mobile apps and their social media channels: