The Dakar Rally got going in earnest today as the racers arrived in Africa after making the crossing between Malaga and Nador. And with the change in scenery, came a change in stage winners as defending race champion Marc Coma won his first stage of this year’s race on his Repsol KTM, the Spaniard topping American Chris Blais and his Red Bull KTM by 59 seconds.
The overall lead, however, is now held by Isidre Esteve, the factory KTM rider leading Coma by 26 seconds after three stages of the race. One of the pre-race favorites, Gauloises KTM’s Cyril Despres, lost more than 20 minutes today with a broken transmission, putting the Frenchman 16th overall and over 25 minutes behind Esteve. Despres, the winner in 2005, was forced to ride the final portion of the stage in first gear.
Blais performed well in today’s stage. After losing almost 11 minutes yesterday because of an oil problem, he rebounded today“ passing some 40 riders on the course. He ended up with the best time at the first checkpoint (after 70 miles), but slipped to second behind Coma by the end of the stage.
Jonah Street ended up fifth in today’s stage and he is fourth in the overall standings, almost seven minutes behind Esteve and over a minute and a half ahead of Blais, who is fifth overall.
Third place in the overall standings, behind Esteve and Coma, is Gauloises KTM’s David Gastau.
Helder Rodrigues, the overall leader after winning yesterday’s stage, suffered a blown engine at the 115-mile mark.
Other Americans in the race were as follows after today’s stage: Casey McCoy (42nd), Steve Laroza (117th), Chris Jones (1234th) and Jim Hall (163rd). One American, James Embro, dropped out of the Rally during today’s stage.