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Dakar Rally competitors battle dunes, rocky terrain in third stage

Portuguese bikes competitor Paulo Goncalves rides his Honda during the third stage of the 2019 Dakar Rally from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, Peru, on Jan. 9, 2019. EPA-EFE/Ernesto Arias

Portuguese bikes competitor Paulo Goncalves rides his Honda during the third stage of the 2019 Dakar Rally from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, Peru, on Jan. 9, 2019. EPA-EFE/Ernesto Arias

EFE

Competitors in the 2019 Dakar Rally will tackle the longest stage of the first week when they navigate dunes and rocky terrain on Wednesday, although the majority of the stretch from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa will be untimed.

In the third stage, bikes, cars, quads, trucks and UTVs once again will try to avoid a costly mistake when they confront a string of dunes along Peru’s Pacific coastal desert.

Such mishaps are even possible for experienced competitors like 53-year-old French driver Stephane Peterhansel (Mini), winner of a record 13 Dakar titles, who on Tuesday became stranded on a dune for 20 minutes.

The contestants then will steadily ascend later in the third stage to Arequipa, a southwestern city that lies inland at a height of 2,300 meters (7,540 feet) above sea level.

Although they will leave the most treacherous dunes behind during their climb, the competitors will have to navigate over rockier terrain that can take a toll on their tires.

The second stage covers a total distance of 798 kilometers (496 miles), although the special (timed section) is just 331 km.

Spanish rider Joan Barreda (Honda) held a slim lead over Austrian defending champion Matthias Walkner (KTM) in the bikes category at the end of Tuesday’s second stage, while the duo of South African driver Giniel De Villiers and German co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz were in first in the cars division.

The contestants need to arrive in Arequipa with their vehicles in the best possible condition, since on Thursday they will face the start of a marathon stage in which no replacement parts or mechanical help from their teams will be allowed until the end of the following day.

Bikes and quads will travel from Arequipa to Moquegua on Thursday, while the route for cars and trucks will be Arequipa to Tacna.

This year’s Dakar Rally (which ends on Jan. 17) will take place entirely in Peru, marking the first time in the history of this famed race that it will be held in just one country.


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