Stage #3 of the Sonora Rally was a tale of two leaders as the FIA top dog Sébastien Loeb crashed which abruptly ended his race, while Daniel Sanders strengthened his advantage in the FIM overall.
Loeb, the World Rally-Raid Championship and Sonora overall leader after winning Stage #2, rolled into a ditch just twelve kilometres into the stage. While Loeb was unharmed, his co-driver Fabian Lurquin was taken to hospital after reporting torso pain that was subsequently diagnosed as a small shoulder fracture. While repairs began on the car following its return to the bivouac, Lurquin’s injury meant the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team had to retire from the rally altogether.
“We were on an off-road track and came to a crest with a very tight left-hand corner,” Loeb explained. “There was a big ditch in front that we couldn’t see.”
With Loeb’s exit, Stage #1 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah re-inherited the overall lead in a reversal of their positions at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, which he had dominated before incidentally crashing out in that race’s third stage. Still, Wednesday was not all smooth sailing for Al-Attiyah as he had to overcome two flat tyres and some technical problems to secure a third-place stage finish.
Now the leader, he faces pressure from Prologue and Wednesday’s stage winner Yazeed Al-Rajhi and runner-up Sebastian Halpern, who respectively trail Al-Attiyah for the overall by 2:51 and 5:06.
While T1 saw a shake-up, Sanders did his best to prevent the same in RallyGP. Ricky Brabec and Toby Price were the favourites throughout the stage, especially as Sanders had the natural disadvantage of being the first rider to start the day, though he remained within striking distance and the three were separated by just ten seconds in the final 100 kilometres. Sanders hit his stride in the waning moments to beat Price by forty-seven seconds, which was inflated to 7:40 thanks to Sanders’ six-minute, fifty-four-second Automatic Time Bonus as the first starter.
‘It’s always a disadvantage opening but I didn’t let it happen, winning the stage with out the bonus time is cool,” Sanders commented.
Tosha Schareina and Brabec also leapfrogged Price in the final order thanks to their bonuses, with Schareina getting. 4:36 as the second starter and Brabec 2:11. Schareina had physically finished seventh while Brabec was fifth.
“I’m in one piece but it’s a little frustrating as there must have only been about 30kms over the whole day where you actually had to take care of your navigation, the rest was just fire roads and riverbeds,” said Price. “I tried to make up time on the guys in front, but the bonus is a big advantage on these kind of stages. All-in-all I kept it on two wheels, so I’m happy with that.”
Mattias Ekström dominated the T3 class to win for the second time ahead of João Ferreira. Stage #2 victor Francisco López Contardo had a part in his Can-Am front bearing break after thirty kilometres, relegating him to tenth and causing a five-position drop in the overall to seventh. His Red Bull team-mate Cristina Gutiérrez moved up to second behind Ekström by nearly ten minutes.
W2RC T3 points leader Seth Quintero finally notched his first podium of the rally in third, having been plagued by broken parts throughout the first two legs. Said issues still leave him at the bottom of the overall and nearly two hours behind Ekström, though strong stage performances in the final two days can salvage some points for the championship.
While Romain Dumontier continued his reign in Rally2, Jacob Argubright overtook Bradley Cox for second in the general order after finishing second to Cox’s fourth after the latter “couldn’t find a flow and wasn’t confident in the fast whooped out sections.
“Been a tough go so far but we live to fight another day.”
Enduro rider and 2024 Dakar Rally hopeful Ashley Thixton ran a penalty-free race to notch his first win in National Moto. Brendan Crow, who had been atop the National Enduro standings, overcame two crashes to finish behind Thixton.
Stage #3 winners
|T1||202||Yazeed Al-Rajhi||Overdrive Racing||3:27:22|
|T3||308||Mattias Ekström||South Racing Can-Am||3:39:27|
|T4||400||Rokas Baciuška||Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing||3:53:51|
|RallyGP||18||Daniel Sanders||Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing||3:25:08|
|Rally2||17||Romain Dumontier||HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing||3:43:19|
|Rally3||57||Massimo Camurri||Freedom Rally Racing||5:16:30|
|Quad||162||Laisvydas Kancius||AG Dakar School||4:49:51|
|National Car/UTV||605||Sara Price*||SP Motorsports||5:37:57|
|National Enduro||525||Ashley Thixton*||Freedom Rally Racing||5:24:43|
|National Malle Moto||501||Matt Sutherland*||Matt Sutherland||6:20:48|
Leaders after Stage #3
|T1||201||Nasser Al-Attiyah||Toyota Gazoo Racing||6:34:36|
|T3||308||Mattias Ekström||South Racing Can-Am||6:54:44|
|T4||400||Rokas Baciuška||Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing||7:17:13|
|RallyGP||18||Daniel Sanders||Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing||7:12:07|
|Rally2||17||Romain Dumontier||HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing||7:45:18|
|Rally3||57||Massimo Camurri||Freedom Rally Racing||10:31:47|
|Quad||162||Laisvydas Kancius||AG Dakar School||9:54:35|