Hero MotoSports Team Rally rider Joaquim Rodrigues created history on stage three of the 2022 Dakar Rally with both rider and manufacturer logging their first stage victory.
After a remarkable comeback in Stage 2, following a difficult Stage 1, Rodrigues put up a fantastic performance right from the start of the stage coming home ahead of Toby Price and rookie Mason Klein. The victory in his sixth consecutive appearance at Dakar sees Rodrigues climb to 17th in the overall rankings. Sam Sunderland had a trying day finishing 17th but still retains the overall lead.
Today’s third stage played out over an unscheduled loop in Al-Qaisumah on an altered route, shortened to a 255-kilometre special and a 380-kilometre link section. There were 214 kilometres of liaison to be tackled on this chilly morning, with temperatures below 10°C, before reaching the start of the day’s timed special. The stage was raced over fast sandy tracks, some type two dune ridges and some twelve kilometres of off-piste tracks.
Confident from his consistent performance over the last two days Joaquim Rodrigues made aggressive efforts today for his maiden win.
“I’m extremely happy with how my day has turned out,” Rodrigues enthused. “Even though the stage was really fast, with a lot of difficulty around alternating dunes and tracks, I was able to push hard right from the very first kilometer. The Hero Rally 450 has been performing extremely well, and I’m happy that our great combination has helped bring home the first stage win at the Dakar. Thank you, Hero MotoSports, for all the effort they have invested in me, and for putting me through a large number of races this year – this has definitely boosted my confidence by leaps and bounds.”
After his fifth-place result on stage two, Toby Price knew he would have to push right from the start to make up time on his rivals ahead. However, with times so tight, it was tough for the Australian to claw back much more than a few minutes. Maintaining good speed over the entire special, Price was able to ultimately fight his way up to second, just over one-minute down on the eventual stage winner by the end of the day. The result moves Toby up to 14th overall, as he continues to regain the time lost on stage one.
“Today has been a good day – super fast, so you can’t really make up time on anyone,” Price lamented. “We had some lines in the dunes that you could see, so I just tried to make a good clean stage and not make any big mistakes. I did have one little get-off, but other than that, nothing major. The results are close, but we’re going in the right direction, and we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
20 year old rookie Mason Klein once again astounded with third place on stage lifting himsel to 13th in the ovberall rankings, 26 minutes off the lead.
Skyler Howes, who found the conditions very much to his liking, pushed hard from his fourth-place start position, making very few errors and catching the three riders ahead of him before the end of the stage. Opening the special from there on, the American was able to maintain his position on the time sheets, despite his rivals chasing him down. Another fourth-place stage result means that Howes now lies fourth in the overall standings.
“Today was really fun – fast like yesterday with plenty of tracks and some technical dunes,” Howes said. “I started off fourth and stayed there till around kilometre 250 where there was a tricky-to-find waypoint and I managed to catch up with the three in front. From there to the finish I opened the whole way, which was really fun and good experience. I did ok on my navigation today, not perfect but it all went smoothly, and I was able to stay at a good pace even from the front. Fourth on the stage is really encouraging, so I’m stoked and already looking forward to tomorrow.”
As the 23rd rider to enter stage three after his little detour yesterday, Daniel Sanders was on the gas from the moment he entered the special until he roared across the finish line in Al Qaisumah. Despite being slightly frustrated that the stage was cut short due to heavy rain, the Aussie remains upbeat and near the front of the provisional standings. Sanders is now just under nine minutes behind the race leader, Sam Sunderland.
“It was a good day today,” Sanders said. “It’s a shame that the stage was cut short as I had a solid pace going and feel like I’d have made up some more time on the guys in front. The navigation was a little bit easier than previous days, so I was able to put my head down and charge all day pretty much. I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Continuing to consistently post impressive stage results at this year’s Dakar Rally, Adrien Van Beveren now lies just four seconds from the provisional lead after finishing the day 9th fastest.
“Today was good. It was very fast with a lot of open desert and with simple navigation, so nobody made any major mistakes. So far, the rally is going really well for myself and the team. I feel great on the bike and everything is perfect at the moment, so I will keep focused and continue to take things day by day,” Van Beveren said.
As the 14th rider to take to today’s stage, Matthias Walkner had hoped to use it to his advantage and chase down the riders ahead. With the special shortened and times extremely close, despite his overall speed on the stage, Walkner was unable to retake as much time as he would have liked. However, making the minimum of mistakes, the 2021 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion was able to finish in 10th place, successfully defending his third-place position in the overall event standings.
“It was a really, really fast stage today,” Walkner said. “The guys in front did a good job of navigating, so even though we had some lines in the wet sand, it was hard to make up that much time. I’m lying third in the overall, but it’s still very early, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
The fourth stage will see the entire Dakar bivouac transfer to the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh. It will feature the longest special stage of the race, with 465 kilometres out of a total distance of 707 kilometres. From Al Qaisumah, riders and drivers will encounter a myriad of terrain types, each one more demanding than the previous: some 200 kilometres of fast track, dunes, rocks and stones and oueds – dry rivers crossings – which could cause some shake-ups in the general standings.
STAGE 3 TOP 20 RESULTS
TOP 20 OVERALL STANDINGS FOLLOWING STAGE 3