2018 Dakar Rally, Stage 3: High for Sunderland, Low for Barreda

Sam Sunderland gets back in front overall after winning Stage 3 of the 2018 Dakar Rally, while Joan Barreda drops, back… way, way, way back.

Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda should probably be wearing a steel cup whenever he heads to South America, because the Dakar Rally never seems to stop kicking him in the nuts, and it appears that once again, the 2018 Dakar Rally is no different.

2018 Dakar Rally
Sam Sunderland roared back from his seventh-place finish in Stage 2 to win Stage 3 of the 2018 Dakar Rally today. Sunderland is now back in the overall lead. PHOTO: KTM IMAGES.

After blazing to the front of the field and collecting his 20th career Stage win during Stage 2 of the 2018 Dakar Rally yesterday, Barreda started today’s Stage 3 from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona in Peru, where he made a huge navigational error that may have cost him his shot at the 2018 Dakar Rally win, or even a podium finish. Barreda missed a waypoint and went as much as 9 miles off course before realizing his mistake. Barreda eventually got back on course, but he ended up finishing in 30th place, 28 minutes behind Stage 3 winner Sam Sunderland.

“I’m a little disappointed today because I was going at good pace, opening the track almost all the way through,” Barreda said. “When I reached kilometer 280, I took the one I thought was the good track, but when I saw that it was not the right one, it was very late and I had lost a lot of time. From now on we will have to work to try to make up this difference.”

Sunderland’s second stage victory of the rally was more emphatic than the first, and it distanced him from his competition, which continued to yo-yo up and down the leaderboard.

“It was good,” Sunderland said of his Stage 3 win. “On the first loop I felt really strong, but then the second loop was a bit tricky in a few spots. I managed to miss one drop in the dunes and had a small crash which was a bit scary. I was trying to push today; that was my plan. There were a few mistakes there and it was really difficult going on and off the common tracks from yesterday. It was really confusing and you really had to pay attention to the course in the road-book. But all-in-all it was a good day. The bike was good and we’re safe for another day. All of a sudden, I didn’t see one of the lines and I guess that was where he made a mistake, though I’m not sure at exactly which kilometre. It’s not easy to open, you know, it’s a difficult desert. As I say, we were on and off the tracks from the day before, so it was really tricky there. The Dakar’s like this, you have to try and be consistent every day. I’m a bit angry at myself for missing that drop there, but one drop out of a thousand is not so bad.”

If there is a consolation for Barreda, it’s that there are still 11 stages–hundreds of miles–left to go in the 2018 Dakar Rally, and the door isn’t completely closed on Barreda, as his competition could conceivably run into trouble, something Yamalube Yamaha Offical Rally rider Adrien Van Beveren experienced in Stage 3 as well. The Frenchman also got lost and wound up losing 13 minutes to Sunderland, which dropped him from second place to sixth place in the overall standings.

2018 Dakar Rally

“It was a difficult day today but nothing is lost,” AVB said. “Being among the first riders to start the stage did not help today, but I did my best to remain focused. I had a few small crashes in the dunes. The sand was super soft and it was a physically demanding stage. Despite all the ups and downs during the stage, I am happy that I reached the finish without losing a lot of time. I managed to make the best out of a tough stage. My result might not be the best, but it’s not terrible. Tomorrow we have the motocross-styled start, and I will be within the second group of riders starting the timed special. If it all goes well I will be able to make up some of the time lost today.”

2018 Dakar Rally
Argentina’s Kevin Benavides moved up the leaderboard with an excellent second-place finish in Stage 3. Benavides now sits second overall. PHOTO: TEAM HRC.

After finishing fourth in Stage 2, Barreda’s teammate, Michael Metge of France, suffered a navigational equipment issue, and he was forced to shadow other riders to the finish, ending up in 11th place. However, things were better for the other half of the Monster Energy Honda team as both Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec put together excellent rides that shot them up the leaderboard. Benavides of Argentina finished second, just 3 minutes and 3 seconds behind Sunderland and a mere 25 seconds ahead of 2016 Dakar Rally Champion Toby Price, who came on strong in third today and moved from 10th overall to fourth overall. Price said that he was pleased to see that he is able to run the pace of the 2018 Dakar Rally leaders after being laid off for nearly a year due to injuries.

2018 Dakar Rally
Former Dakar Champion Toby Price finished third today and moved into fourth place overall. PHOTO: KTM IMAGES.

“Today was not so bad,” Price said. “It was definitely difficult with the navigation and stuff. We had a couple of small crashes and I blew the end of my camel-back, so I’m a little bit dry at the moment. The navigation tower wasn’t rolling my road-book through, so I was having to do it manually sometimes. It was a little bit difficult in that second part, but we’re here and that’s the main thing, so we’ll just see how the rest of the rally goes. The pace is definitely here and we know we can still run at the front. We’re going to make sure we look after the bike, look after ourselves and avoid making those little crashes where the bike kind of chased me a little bit and landed on top of me a bit. But all-in-all, it was a good day. We’re here at the finish of day three, so now it’s day four to go.”

Brabec was right behind Price at the finish, however, and his fourth-place finish vaulted him from 11th overall to fifth overall, 8 minutes out of the lead.

“It was a good stage, with very complicated navigation; difficult too, because there were a lot of ruts marked out from yesterday,” Brabec said. “I think that I didn’t make too many mistakes, or at least I haven’t paid too dearly for them. I am quite happy to finish this difficult whole stage and am pretty satisfied with the position on the day and in the overall race.”

2018 Dakar Rally
Pablo Quintanilla is creeping toward the front of the 2018 Dakar Rally leaderboard. The Chilean is now up to third overall after finishing fifth in Stage 3. PHOTO: HUSQVARNA IMAGES.

Fifth in Stage 3 today, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla moved from fifth overall to third overall in the 2018 Dakar Rally overall standings, the Chilean keeping himself mostly out of trouble as he settles in for what will be a long race that so far has not been short on action.

“I enjoyed it a lot today,” Quintanilla said. “It was a really fun stage to ride. Some of the larger dunes were really soft, and it was easy to get stuck. I felt really comfortable first thing this morning and was able to push right from the start. I recovered some time on the guys ahead but then ended up losing a couple of minutes when I made a small mistake with one of the waypoints. I feel a lot fitter today than I did yesterday, so that helps a lot, especially on the longer stages.”

2018 Dakar Rally
Steady as she goes: Andrew Short is finishing consistently inside the top 30 in each stage during his Dakar Rally debut. He was 25th again today. PHOTO: HUSQVARNA IMAGES.

Quintanilla’s American teammate, Andrew Short, still learning the ropes in the Dakar Rally, posted another decent 25th place finish, and he came across the line with another American, SCORE Baja 1000 veteran Shane Esposito, who finished 26th today.

Tomorrow’s loop stage will begin and end in San Juan de Marcona. As part of the 40th anniversary Dakar Rally, the top 15 motorcycles will start on the beach together before heading on to more dunes on a 30-kilometer route that goes from sea level to 2000 meters msl.