Dakar Rally – Debutant Loeb claims back-to-back stage wins

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Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) from Axion X-Raid Team at the end of the stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy, Argentina on January 5, 2016.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) from Axion X-Raid Team at the end of the stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy, Argentina on January 5, 2016.

Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) from Axion X-Raid Team at the end of the stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy, Argentina on January 5, 2016.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) from Axion X-Raid Team at the end of the stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2016 from Termas de Rio Hondo to Jujuy, Argentina on January 5, 2016.

SPORTS – Frenchman Sebastien Loeb continued his exceptional start to his maiden Dakar Rally by winning a second straight stage and extending his overall lead on Tuesday.

The nine-time World Rally champion, competing in the world’s toughest rally raid event for the first time, clocked the fastest time on Tuesday between Termas Rio Hondo and Jujuy to extend his overall lead to more than five minutes.

In the bikes category, Spain’s Joan Barreda snatched the lead on Tuesday with a terrific performance as Australia’s Toby Price slipped down the field.

However it was Loeb who again stole the limelight and is taking to rally raid like many expected he would.

“I had lot of fun on this stage it was really nice. It looked like the times would be very close between the drivers but I pushed hard,” said the 41-year-old Team Peugeot Total driver.

“I am enjoying the Dakar, it’s been two good days for me, and the car is going very well. I have a good feel for this car, it’s performing well and I enjoy it for now.

“At the moment I am enjoying these stages on the tracks, because I have a good feeling with this kind of road but when we go into the desert, it will be something different with some long and hot stages, something I do not know very well, but we’ll see.”

Defending Champ Fighting Back

This year’s Dakar Rally kept up its record of delivering the unexpected every single day: in fact, not one of the stages has run entirely according to schedule since the proper action started as the crews left Buenos Aires three days ago.

This has been down to torrential rain causing a headache for the organisers and often a muddy soaking for the drivers. But despite this enormous challenge, Nasser Al-Attiyah is making progress up the leaderboard while sticking to his plan.

Having started today in 10th position overall, the defending Dakar champion arrived in Jujuy – close to the Bolivian border in northern Argentina – holding fifth in the general classification, after chasing his way to third on the stage. Once again the scheduled section was shortened from its original length, with 112 of the original 314 kilometres lopped off the start.

South Africa’s Giiel De Villiers moved into second place in the overall standings for Toyota while Loeb’s Team Peugeot Total team mate Stephane Peterhansel dropped to third.

“The stage was shorter than we expected but it was again nice to drive,” said Peterhansel, who has won the Dakar title a record 11 times across bike and car categories.

“Little bit too much speed limits for the villages, every 5km we had a speed limit and I was not really relaxed, sometimes it was a very fast track and I was not sure I could brake in the good point so I preferred to not drive too fast and be safe while I stayed on the road.

“We are happy that Sébastien Loeb is liking the Dakar, and everybody knows that he is very fast, he’s a big champion so on this kind of track he is of course faster than me. “

Barreda surged from seventh overnight to take the lead after a superb ride on Tuesday.

“Good day, we left in seventth position after opening the stage yesterday. It was an easy special stage, especially for navigation,’ said the Honda rider, who leads by just 14 seconds from KTM’s Stefan Svitko.

“These days there’s not much navigation so the differences are very small. At the end the most important thing is to stay in the front group and that’s it.”