A record Dakar Rally altitude of 4300m claimed several high-profile riders in the third stage today including Australia’s Ben Grabham (KTM) and stage two winner Sam Sunderland (Honda).
They were among about a dozen riders who incorrectly descended the high ridge line into a valley and then found they couldn’t get back up, costing them valuable time. Ben, who had his highest finish in stage two with a sixth place, dropped to 73rd position just two in front of Sunderland and down the outright order from ninth to 33rd.
Winner of the stage was first stage winner Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) who remains outright leader.
The main challengers finally showed their mettle in the hill climb stage with Frenchman and five-time winner Cyril Despres second on his Yamaha and Spaniard Marc Coma (KTM) third. hey are also second and third outright, some 13 minutes behind Bort and separated only by 52 seconds.
Sherco rider Alain Duclos of France is consistently fourth.
Grabham wasn’t the only Aussie to fall victim to the mountain madness with Mark Davidson (KTM) and Clayton Jacobsen (KTM) not appearing on the time sheets and suspected to be out of the rally. Further details will be supplied when they come to hand.
Meanwhile, Shane Diener (Yamaha) finished 41st and moved up from 52 to 45 outright, Allan Roberts (KTM) was 61st and is up two to 59th and Troy O’Oconnor (KTM) was 68th and down nine places to 68th.
The gruelling “marathon” stage included a 292km liaison to the 373km special stage which ended at the bivouac where they have to perform their own bike servicing overnight.
For those interested in the quad bikes, two-time winner Marcos Patronelli was evacuated to the bivouac suffering from dehydration and out of the rally. Also out is popular Swede Pal Anders Ullevalseter who retired for the first time from a Dakar Rally with mechanical problems. Meanwhile, Minis occupy the top three positions in the car section.