Stage 2 represented the proper Dakar Rally start, with the drivers launching into the first long-distance stage of the Dakar, covering 278 kilometers around the Peruvian town of Pisco. The scenery consisted of dramatic desert landscapes with big sand dunes, as well as stunning views of the coast, with 90% of the action being off-piste. In these challenging conditions, many competitors fell by the wayside.
Following a fast start to the stage, Al-Attiyah in the Toyota Hilux relied on his sand expertise to grow an even bigger gap at the front of the race. However, the veteran cross-country driver couldn’t quite hold the lead when his co-driver suffered a bout of ‘sand dune sickness’. “The reason we lose a lot of time is because Mathieu got sick from the beginning and I had to take care about him,” Al-Attiyah commented.
Despres won his second ever stage with the team, and with it taking the overall lead, by bringing home a Peugeot 1,2,3 in front of Peterhansel and Loeb. “I saw a couple of crashes and cars getting stuck, we are not at home here, you have to take your time to get through and get experience,” said the Frenchman.
Al-Attiyah may now be over 12 minutes behind new race leader Despres, but he doesn’t have to look too far around the bivouac to see how much worse his day could have been. Bryce Menzies had made an encouraging start to the 2018 Dakar with a Top 5 placing on the opening stage. This good work counted for nothing though when the American’s MINI rolled out of the race just six kilometers into the stage.
Staying closest to the Peugeots was former Dakar champions Giniel De Villiers who drove their Hilux to the stage’s fourth fastest time.
The next challenge for the crews is the near 300-kilometer timed special stage between Pisco and San Juan de Marcona.
2018 Dakar Rally Stage 2 classification