Rally superstar out after Dakar disaster, Price rises
SEBASTIEN Loeb's Dakar Rally is over after a disastrous stage five.
The Frenchman lost almost three hours after twice getting stuck in soft sand, but it's a back injury to co-driver Daniel Elena that has put him out.
In the bikes, Joan Barreda rode himself back into contention with a stunning stage victory, Toby Price also moving up the order as the Australian contingent still numbers three.
Very loose sand trapped many competitors on the rally's final full day in Peru, Stage 5 differing in route between the bikes/quads (266km distance) and cars/trucks (268km distance) before a gruelling 500-600km liaison trek to the overnight stop in Arequipa.
Stage 5 was all about Barreda. The Honda rider made full use of his ninth starting position to build a four minute lead by the first waypoint, and after that he was never headed.
His final margin of victory over KTM's Matthias Walkner stood at 10min26sec.
"I set a blistering pace throughout the stage and it worked," Barreda said.
"I knew it was the last day on the dunes, so I had to attack. That's exactly what I did, and I gained back some time.
"I'm back in the top 10 and, although the deficit is still big, I'm sure I'll find an opening."
His 21st stage win vaulted him back into fourth in the overall classification, just seven minutes behind rally leader Adrien Van Beveren.
The Yamaha rider struggled through the loose sand on the stage, salvaging fifth on the day but losing almost 15min of his advantage over Barreda.
"I'm happy to be done for today because it was tough," he said.
"I'd never seen sand so loose before. There was a moment when I had to pedal with my legs to get over a dune. It was an amazing special."
Toby Price ended the day seventh, 15 minutes off Barreda but holding pace with Van Beveren to sit just 10 minutes off the overall lead.
Both he and teammate Matthias Walkner had minor crashes during the stage, but Price said he got through the stage without too many difficulties.
"There was one waypoint that was tricky to find, but for most of the race I was riding side-by-side with Antoine (Meo, KTM teammate) and that was really good fun," he said.
"All-in-all I'm happy with how things are going and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Despite slipping behind Barreda, Price retains sixth overall after a disastrous day for Husqvarna's Pablo Quintanilla.
The Chilean was second overall at the start of the day, but an early crash saw him drop almost half an hour to slip to ninth overall.
Australia's Rodney Faggotter continued his strong run, finishing 20th on the day to consolidate 17th overall despite stopping for several minutes when one of his Yamaha teammates crashed ahead of him.
"Another tough day," he wrote on social media.
"Stopped early to check on my crashed teammate Franco Caimi and then we rode together whilst we could because he had no navigation equipment left!
"Lost him in the dust about 80ks in and then just rode my race. Worst part was the 6 hour road section at the end!"
The third Australian, Scott Britnell, bounced back from a hellish fourth stage to claim 62nd on Stage 5, holding down 79th overall as the rally prepares to head into the Andes on Day 6.
MOTORCYCLE CATEGORY STANDINGS
1. Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) 14h 37m 40s
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) +1m 00s
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) +1m 14s
4. Joan Barreda (Honda) +7m 33s
5. Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) +7m 42s
6. Toby Price (KTM) +10m 39s
7. Antoine Meo (KTM) +12m 12s
8. Gerard Farres (KTM) +15m 24s
9. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) +16m 12s
10. Ricky Brabec (Honda) +25m 48s
Peugeot further increased its stranglehold on the 2018 edition of Dakar, but only two of the 3008DKR Maxis remain in contention.
Sebastien Loeb retired from the rally after a hellish day in the dunes.
Leading out onto the first part of the stage by dint of yesterday's win, he became stuck in the loose sand twice to dump over 2hrs45min by the time he reached the neutralisation point.
But that was as far as he got. Co-driver Daniel Elena had hurt his tailbone in a heavy landing and was in too much pain to continue, ending the French rally legend's third tilt at Dakar.
"We got to a crest where another car was stuck," Loeb explained.
"We were following Nasser (Al-Attiyah) and saw him go over, so we did the same, but I hadn't realised there was a hole behind the crest. And, bam, we went right into the hole! We waited for a truck to pull us out.
"We're driving really slowly and, as soon as I go over 30 km/h (Daniel) screams inside the car. I don't think we can go on."
Stephane Peterhansel won his first stage of 2018 to increase his outright lead to over half an hour over teammate Carlos Sainz.
The Spaniard lost time early in the stage when he tried to help Loeb, only to become stuck in the sand himself - a fate Peterhansel would avoid.
"We didn't have any problems, but it was extremely tricky. These dunes were the most difficult ones since the start of the rally," he said.
"Seb and Carlos simply got stuck in the sand. Helping them was out of the question because we couldn't get close. If you stop, you're stuck for good!"
Bernhard Ten Brinke was the closest challenger on the day, his Toyota just under five minutes adrift of the Peugeot at stage end.
The result moved the Dutchman into third place after another difficult day for lead Toyota drivers Giniel De Villiers and Nasser Al-Attiyah, losing 12 and 24 minutes respectively to the lead after getting bogged in the sand and suffering punctures.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi emerged as a surprise early stage contender, leading at the neutralisation point before the Mini driver lost over an hour in the final part of the stage.
Meantime, football manager Andre Villas-Boas' maiden Dakar debut is over, retiring on the previous stage and taken to hospital with a back injury after a heavy nose-first landing in the dunes.
CAR CATEGORY STANDINGS
1. Stephane Peterhansel, Jean-Paul Cottret (Peugeot) 13h 27m 26s
2. Carlos Sainz, Lucas Cruz (Peugeot) +31m 16s
3. Bernhard ten Brinke, Michel Perin (Toyota) +1h 15m 16s
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah, Mathieu Baumel (Toyota) +1h 23m 21s
5. Giniel de Villiers, Dirk von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +1h 34m 34s
6. Khalid Al Qassimi, Xavier Panseri (Peugeot) +1h 46m 48s
7. Eugenio Amos, Sebastien Delaunay (2WD) +2h 1m 57s
8. Jakub Przygonski, Tom Colsoul (Mini) +2h 16m 43s
9. Martin Prokop, Jan Tomanek (Ford) +2h 17m 27s
10. Patrick Sireyjol, Francois-Xavier Beguin (Cummins) +2h 58m 22s