Dakar 2018, Stage 3: Al-Attiyah wins, drama for Hirvonen
Toyota driver Nasser Al-Attiyah picked up his second stage win of the 2018 Dakar Rally, as Mikko Hirvonen joined his fellow X-raid Mini buggy drivers in dropping out of contention.
Hirvonen was the highest-profile entrant to hit trouble in the 296km timed special of the Pisco–San Juan de Marcona stage, as the Finn was forced to stop for repairs short of halfway into the run and gave up over an hour and a half.
The time losses incurred by Hirvonen mean the 2018 Dakar will yield no marquee result for X-raid's all-new two-wheel-drive challenger, after the two other Mini buggies – those of Bryce Menzies and Yazeed Al-Rajhi – suffered accidents on Sunday.
Adding to the team's misfortune was a crash for the returning Nani Roma, who looked set for a solid finish before rolling his four-wheel-drive Mini John Cooper Works Rally car at the very end of the stage.
He arrived at the finish 26 minutes down on the leader but required subsequent medical attention, and is now out of the event.
With the fight for rally honours now almost certainly down to the Peugeot and Toyota camps, Al-Attiyah scored an emphatic stage win for the latter.
The Qatari had dropped from first to fifth overall on Sunday, having to open the road and with co-driver Mathieu Baumel unwell, but bounced back the day after, leading the way at every waypoint but the first.
He headed nearest rival Stephane Peterhansel of Peugeot by four minutes at the finish line, and has moved up to third in the general classification.
Second place on the stage has allowed defending champion Peterhansel to vault into first overall, overhauling teammate and erstwhile leader Cyril Despres, who finished almost eight minutes down on Al-Attiyah.
Slotting in between the pair in the stage results was the Peugeot 3008DKR Maxi of Carlos Sainz, while the fourth Peugeot works driver – Sebastien Loeb – ended the run narrowly behind Despres.
Toyota's Giniel de Villiers was sixth on the stage and has slipped behind his Qatari teammate Al-Attiyah, as well as Loeb, in the general classification.
He remains ahead of Sainz, who makes up the overall top six with a 14m27s deficit to rally leader Peterhansel.
Watch video highlights of Day 3...
Villagra scores maiden stage win
De Rooy Iveco driver Federico Villagra scored his first stage win in the Dakar Rally, as he and Kamaz's Eduard Nikolaev emerged as the frontrunners in the 2018 contest.
Villagra, who finished on the podium on his truck-class debut two years ago, overcame what was at one point a seven-minute deficit to Nikolaev to finish 35 seconds clear of the reigning champion.
Nikolaev remains at the head of the race, nine minutes ahead of Villagra, as several of their chief rivals - including Nikolaev's teammate Dmitry Sotnikov, Villagra's teammate Ton van Genugten and Tatra driver Ales Loprais - lost over an hour.
Standings after Stage 3 (Car class, top 10):
Dakar 2018, Stage 3: Sunderland retakes lead, Barreda suffers
Dakar 2018, stage 3: KP inside top-30, Santosh hits trouble