The third stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally in South America, marked by mechanical problems for Marc Coma and David Frétigné, as well as the withdrawal of Jordi Viladoms, was won by Cyril Despres, new leader in the general standings, now holding a lead of 10’03’’ over David Casteu.
The first sand dunes of the Dakar 2010 gave Despres the opportunity to take control of the rally on the stage leading to Fiambala. Before even leaving Argentina, on a relatively short stage, the race leaders were confronted with the hazards of sand. Over a distance of 182 kilometres, the Frenchman opened up a gap of 10’40’’ over Helder Rodrigues, second in the special. The Portuguese rider has therefore placed himself as a legitimate pretender for the podium, especially with the rhythm at which mishaps are occurring. After the petrol problems of Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez and the false withdrawal of Frans Verhoeven, who eventually rejoined the race after several hours spent changing his engine, today it was the turn of Coma and Casteu to encounter problems.
In fact, the title holder had a real struggle with his machine. Admittedly he started with the best time at CP1 (after 74 km), but his progression to the finishing line took a turn for the worse. He had to stop many times to calm a “spluttering” engine, losing 21 minutes on Despres, the new leader of the general standings. It never rains, it only pours, and this bad news for Coma came with the blow of losing his right-hand man on this third stage. Viladoms, who was “celebrating” his 30th birthday today, fell heavily on the special. The Catalan was transported by helicopter to the bivouac for medical attention and was forced to abandon the race, his third withdrawal in four participations.
Casteu, who won the first special stage, was also forced to slow down, firstly, to avoid the engine of his Sherco overheating, then secondly to lend a hand to his rival and friend Coma. However, a battery failure temporarily stopped him from restarting afterwards. Frétigné, who also faced difficulties on the second half of the stage, was also amongst the favourites who lost time – at the end of the stage to Fiambala, he is already several hours behind Despres.