The last long drive, the last sand dunes – and the last chance to make an impression at Dakar Rally 2017. Friday saw competitors cover 759 kilometres from San Juan to Rio Cuarto in Argentina.
With Saturday’s final stage only 64km long, there shouldn’t be much room for any major upset before the finish in Buenos Aires. But Sébastien Loeb sent a strong message to his French rival nonetheless…
Having won Thursday’s stage, Stéphane Peterhansel opened the road three minutes before Loeb. But the rally-like tracks of the Córdoba area seemed to suit Loeb, a man with nine WRC world titles, and he overtook his teammate early in the day to win in Rio Cuarto. Orly Terranova completed Friday’s podium (+6’37) with Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers in fourth (+7’01).
But Loeb’s 18-second lead is not enough to pass Peterhansel in the overall standings. “Mister Dakar” could very well win his 13th title on Saturday. And with Loeb currently second overall (+5’32) and Cyril Despres third (+32’54), a Team Peugeot Total podium is looking more and more likely.
HARO BRAVO (ESP)
|5.||302||DE VILLIERS (ZAF)
VON ZITZEWITZ (DEU)
Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves took his first stage victory ahead of Spain’s Joan Barreda (+1’09) and Adrien Van Beveren from France (+2’38).
Nothing that would bother Sam Sunderland though – having taken fifth this Friday, the British rider still leads overall. His first Dakar victory is closer than ever.
On Friday night, Sunderland is 33’09 ahead of his KTM teammate Matthias Walkner and 37’10 ahead of Van Beveren. Arrived 10th in Rio Cuarto, Walkner now needs to defend his second place in the general rankings.
Štefan Svitko had been taken to the hospital on Thursday after finishing the stage in a state of exhaustion, yet the Slovak rider showed up on the start line on Friday morning and finished in ninth place.
Russia’s Sergey Karyakin won his second consecutive stage more than 20 minutes before second-placed Daniel Domaszewski from Argentina, confirming his overall lead.