Spaniard Joan Roma dominated today's 190-mile special test on his factory BMW, winning the stage by 22 seconds over rally leader Richard Sainct. Roma is now third overall, five minutes and 37 seconds behind Sainct in the standings.
Today's route, 377 miles counting the transfer sections, started in the Moroccan town of Ouarzazate, situated on a vast desert plateau on the threshold of the "Big South," where the Oasis and Kasbahs meet along the valleys of the Dades and the Draa. The first third of the special test was run on narrow, winding dirt roads at the foot of the Atlas, and it then followed the Oued Draa on rapid, very rocky roads before reaching Goulimine, one of the towns labeled as a door to the desert.
Finn Kari Tianen crossed the line in third place with an identical time to Sainct and held on to second overall, with Chile's Carlo de Gavardo, yesterday's stage winner, finishing fourth and South African Alfie Cox taking fifth.
De Gavardo has little experience leading the way, and Sainct commented, "I came up behind Carlos 20 kilometers after the start. He was riding quite slowly, but because of the dust I couldn't get past him until kilometer 80."
During that time, the other riders bunched up, and the gap between them closed. Commented Roma, "Sitting on the start line, I thought 'You're going to lose a lot of time today.' In the end things turned out much better than I could have hoped.'
American Jimmy Lewis ended the stage in 13th place on his factory BMW. The Californian is 12th overall, 38 minutes and 26 seconds behind Sainct.
Honda's Johnny Campbell finished 18th in today's stage and is currently 22nd overall.