Red Bull KTM factory rider Sam Sunderland emerged as the best of the factory team in the Dakar Rally Stage 3, as this beast of a rally showed its nasty side for the first time in this edition. The British rider finished second behind Spain’s Joan Barreda in the long stage, and ahead of Pela Renet of France. Sunderland is now also second in the overall standings, with an 11.20-minute deficit to Barreda, who now assumes the overall lead.

Like many riders, Sam Sunderland’s teammates Toby Price, the winner of stage two, and Matthias Walkner, both got into difficulties in the early part of the stage. They, and many others lost time in their battle against difficult navigation, fesh-fesh, camel grass and riverbeds. Price was ninth in the stage and dropped in the overall standings to fifth position. Walkner, who incurred an overnight five-minute speeding penalty, was 11th in the stage and tenth overall. KTM Factory Racing teammate Laia Sanz finished 17th on her KTM 450 RALLY bike after the hard ride that took competitors from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy – a total of 780 km with a total of 364 km over two timed specials. On a day that was particularly tough, Sanz is now 15th. Her goal is to improve on her 2015 result, her best so far at the Dakar, where she finished overall ninth.

Sunderland: “We knew the first 45 km were going to be tricky, but they were really tricky. There was a lot of vegetation, we were crossing through rivers and trying to find the piste again. It was really tough. We lost 10-15 minutes in the first 45 km and that was a bit frustrating, then in the second part of the special it was good, and I managed to push a bit. We knew it was going to be a tough day and there are still many more to come. We just take each day one at a time, and tick them off as we go. I want to arrive at the finish this year. That’s very important for me, and we still have a long way to go.”

Price: “It was a hard stage and the first 70 km was really difficult. If you didn’t hit your marks exactly right and get all your way points at the times you needed to, then your road book got all out of whack and you had to recalibrate and sort out where you were. I went a little bit too left in the first one and then I couldn’t find it. I ended up doing an extra 10-12 km more than I needed to today. We just have to put that day behind us.”

Walkner: “Today was not so good and I sometimes got lost at the beginning of the stage. It was heavy to start with Toby in the front, but I think everyone got lost a couple of times because it was tricky navigation. Then after the neutral part I was late arriving for the start of the second part of the special. The time calculated was very short and I hope I will get some of this back again. It was not really a good day, but there are still more to come.”

Stage 3 was a test, perhaps the first real test of what Dakar Rally Sports Director and former five-time Dakar winner Marc Coma has promised will be one of the most difficult editions ever. Not only was the day’s ride long and hard, they also encountered temperatures ranging from the high 30s Celsius before climbing to 4000 meters altitude in the Andes where it was was only around 5 degrees Celsius.

On Thursday riders leave Argentina and travel north to Tupiza in the south of Bolivia – another brutal ride of 521 km, of with 416 km is timed. It will be another high altitude day with the additional challenge of tackling dunes at around 3,500 meters. Rain is also forecast for their destination.

Results Stage 3 Dakar 2017
San Miguel de Tucumán – San Salvador de Jujuy: 364 km timed, 780 km total
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:23:41 h (1 min penalty)
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +12:29 min
3. Pela Renet (FRA), Husqvarna, +15:30
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, +16:02
5. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, +16:20
Other KTM
8. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), KTM, +20:43
9. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +21:51
11. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +25:40
17. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +34:42

Standings Dakar 2017 after 3 of 12 stages
1. Barreda, 7:36:30 h (1 min penalty)
2. Sunderland, +10:20 min
3. Goncalves, +13:42
4. Quintanilla, +14:56
5. Price, +16:19
Other KTM
7. Farres Guell, +22:00
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, +25:54
10. Walkner, +27:47 (5 min penalty)
15. Sanz, +46:35