Mr Dakar, Stephane Peterhansel, took his first stage win of the 2017 Dakar Rally when he led Peugeot team mates Carlos Sainz and Sebatien Loeb home in the third stage from San Miguel de Tucumán to San Salvador de Jujuy. Juan Barreda completely dominated the bike category, taking victory by over 12 minutes.

Stephane Peterhansel took his first stage win of Rally Dakar 2017

Image by Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool

After two days where navigation was not a major issue, stage three brought a major change to the scenery and the first open navigation sections. The competitors also had to contend with changes in weather and altitude; they climbed as high as 5 000 m above sea level and temperatures dropped as low as 5°C after being in the high thirties earlier on in the day.

Nasser Al-Attiyah continued his strong run in the 2017 Dakar, leading the stage at the break but an off-course excursion damaged his Toyota Hilux. He did eventually make it to the finish but lost over two hours to stage winner Peterhansel. With Al-Attiyah falling by the wayside, Peterhansel took the win by nearly two minutes from Sainz with overnight leader Loeb a further 1’14” back.

Mikko Hirvonen, who spent a large part of the day running in the top three, had to settle for fourth in the first of the MINIs with Cyril Despres (Peugeot) in fifth. Orlando Terranova (MINI) and Yazeed Al Rajhi (MINI) were next up ahead of the first of the Toyotas, piloted by Nani Roma. Jakub Przygonski (MINI) and Ronan Chabot (Toyota) completed the top ten.

While Al-Attiyah experienced the worst of the problems suffered by the Toyotas, teammate Geniel de Villiers did not have things all his own way. He and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz lost time in the early part of the stage but then were able to hold their position until fuel pressure problems delayed them near the end of the stage. They eventually finished the stage in 14th place, 36’23” behind Peterhansel. Conrad Rautenbach and Rob Howie lost time when they stopped to help Al-Attiyah and had to be content with 25th place over an hour-and-a-half behind the stage winners.

Loeb still leads the overall standings, 42 seconds ahead of Sainz with Peterhansel in third. Hirvonen is in fourth with Roma in fifth. De Villiers’ poor day sees him drop down to tenth, 35’20” behind Loeb while Rautenbach and Howie have slipped to 20th.

Joan Barreda stormed to a convincing win on stage 3 of Dakar 2017

Image by Honda Racing Corporation

In the bike category overnight leader Toby Price (KTM) and a number of other riders experienced navigational difficulties in the early part of the stage. This allowed Juan Barreda (Honda) to take the lead. While Price and some of the others were fighting their way back through the field, Barreda continued to pull away, eventually crossing the line 13’29” ahead of Sam Sunderland (KTM) with Pierre Renet (Husqvarna) just over three minutes further back in third.

Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) continued his steady progress, coming home in fourth  18 seconds ahead of Paulo Goncalves (Honda). Adrien van Beveren was the first Yamaha rider home crossing the line in sixth with Franc Caimi (Honda) and Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) not far behind him.

After his early difficulties on the stage which saw him as far down as 46th place, Price recovered to finish in ninth place, 21’51” behind Barreda. Ricky Brabec (Honda) completed the top ten.

South African David Thomas (Husqvarna) had a great day finishing the stage in 26th place with Botswana’s Vince Crosbie (KTM) in 52nd. The other South Africans in the bike field didn’t fare quite as well; Walter Terblanche (KTM) ended the stage in 114th while Joey Evans (KTM) had to be content with 120th.

Barreda’s emphatic win had moved him up to the top of the overall ranking 10’20” ahead of Sunderland. Goncalves is in third ahead of Quintanilla while Price manages to hang on to fifth.

Thomas remains the leading Southern African rider in 30th place. Crosbie is 52nd while Terblanche and Evens are 10 109th and 118th respectively.

Gaston Gonzalez took the stage 3 win on his Yamaha

Image by Eric Vargiolu / DPPI

After a long day on the quad bike, Ignacio Casale retained his lead in the overall rankings after finishing second to Gastòn Gonzàlez. Argentine, Gonzàlez, perfectly controlled the stage from start to finish and crossed the line nearly five minutes ahead of his rival.

Stage one winner, Marcelo Medeiros was forced to withdraw from the event after a severe fall. While he is not in danger, the Brazilian suffered a head injury as well as a suspected broken shoulder and right wrist in the crash.

Eduard Nikolaev in his KAMAZ

Image by Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool

There wasn’t much to separate the trucks during the third stage but it was Eduard Nikolaev of the Kamaz team who prevailed. The Russian, a former winner, overcame Martin Kolomy by 48 seconds but the Czech driver retained the overall lead in the general standings with Nikolaev now a close second.

The fourth stage takes the competitors from San Salvador de Jujuy in Argentina across the border to Tupiza in Bolivia. The 2017 Dakar has now reached its “cruising altitude” of around 3 500 m above sea level where the competitors will remain for the next six days. Big dunes and navigational challenges are likely to be features of the 416 km special stage.