The victories achieved by Kevin Benavides in the bike race, Ignacio Casale in the quad category, Giniel de Villiers in the car race and Ton van Genugten in the truck category did not affect the positions at the top of the rally’s hierarchy. Matthias Walkner became the first Austrian winner on a bike, with Austrian brand KTM continuing to dominate the event thanks to a 17th consecutive success. For its last participation, Peugeot also retained the title, but this time only one of their cars was on the podium, namely the 3008 Maxi driven by winner Carlos Sainz. Under threat until the day before the finish from Federico Villagra, in the end Eduard Nikolaev obtained a third title behind the wheel of his Kamaz. As for Chilean Ignacio Casale, to win his 2nd Dakar he dominated the general standings from start to finish.
This was the last genuine opportunity to make the difference and gain a place in the general standings for the competitors. They had to be watchful on the first part of the special in which the dunes of San Juan had pride of place as well as a section of fesh-fesh that can cause major damage to racing hopes. The quick tracks at the end of the special suited WRC experts down to the ground, but there was always the danger of getting carried away with speed and making a mistake the day before the finish…
The arrival in the region of San Juan was by no means a soft landing, because the competitors had to tackle the longest special of the rally, totalling 523 km. It was a mixture of sand, fast tracks and bumpy rocky sections that severely tested the riders’ and drivers’ capacities with the tiredness of the last 12 days starting to take its toll. Weather and safety problems forced the organisers to cancel the stage for the bike and quad categories
This was the third year running that the rally featured a mixed start, meaning that cars, motorbikes and quads took turns to start based on their times in the previous stage. La Rioja province, the only region that has featured in every Dakar since the rally came to South America, is also the scene of the second motorbike marathon stage. The stars of the Dakar will have to take care of their machines on their own after another taxing day.
The Dakar contested its first stage in Argentina this year and also encountered much warmer temperatures than in recent days, with almost 40°C in the shade. The danger was that this could tire the competitors on the vast sandy terrain covering the first part of the special and then perhaps rob them of their lucidity when tackling the last part, in which tricky navigation through river beds had pride of place…
At 500 km, the longest special of the 2018 Dakar was also one of the hardest. Rain on the Bolivian Plateau and sections at altitudes exceeding 4,800 metres made the challenge even more daunting. The competitors had to contend with their own fatigue as well as the wear and tear of their vehicles after the rules of the marathon stage left them without assistance service the night before.
Refreshed after a well-deserved rest day at 3,600 metres in Bolivia's beautiful capital, La Paz, the competitors tackled the longest special since the start of the rally. Rain had made the fast earth and sand tracks on the 425 km course even trickier. As if this were not enough, this was a marathon stage, so competitors will have to personally carry out any necessary repairs at the bivouac.
The Dakar has left Peru and its formidable sand dunes and entered Bolivia, not far from the splendid Lake Titicaca, giving the competitors the opportunity to taste the mountains and quicker tracks. However, they still had to be wary of the high plains of Bolivia and sections at a height of 4,722 metres above sea level before a rest day in the capital La Paz, which will help them acclimatise to the altitude.
Sand galore! The fifth and final stage in Peru was just like the ones that preceded it. The cars and trucks, racing on their own separate course, went through another day in hell. The Tacna region and its mountainous dunes showed no mercy, but the competitors got to take a breather with a stretch on the beach prior to the long transfer to Arequipa.
A splendid fine sandy beach with a spectacular grouped start, more than 100 kilometres of dunes of all sizes and a tricky canyon to tackle just before the finish was the setting in the region of San Juan de Marcona for the long fourth stage that was favourable to surprises!
Following a first long stage that enabled initial gaps to be opened on Sunday, the competitors had to tackle the dunes of the Ica Desert for one last time, allowing them to showcase their navigation and dune-crossing talents. There was much time on offer to be made up for the unfortunate participants of the previous day before swooping down into San Juan de Marcona and its big fine sandy beaches.
After a short appetiser on Saturday, the competitors faced the full might of the dunes of Ica near Pisco on Sunday. The second stage in Peru was 90% off the track. The 267 km challenge required some serious navigational skills, especially among the car drivers, who for once had to open the road. In the end, the Peugeot drivers capitalised on the tracks of the top 10 to burst back onto the scene after a disappointing opener.
The opening stage of the 2018 Dakar consisted of a spectacular link section along the Pacific coast followed by a 31 km sprint near Pisco —the ideal warm-up before the first real difficulties of the rally emerge in the next few days. It helped competitors to get a feel for the dunes of the Ica Desert near Pisco (where the famous Peruvian brandy of the same name is made) before a beautiful downhill that gave specialists the chance to shine.
22 November in Paris held a press conference dedicated to the “Dakar-2018”, which will be held from 6 to 20 January in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The event, attended by about 500 people was made by the Minister of foreign trade and tourism of Peru, the Minister of culture of Bolivia and the Governor of Cordoba. Race Director Etienne lavigne presented the details of the sports program of the 40th edition of the “Dakar” that promises a large number of dunes in the early stages after the start of the race in Peru on January 6.