Sebastien Loeb wins stage two to cut Dakar Rally lead
Sebastien Loeb put in a dominant display on Tuesday, winning stage two of the 2019 Dakar Rally to dramatically close on the leaders.
Jakub Przygonski struggled early on with Red Bull privateer Loeb pushing reigning champion Carlos Sainz hard for the lead during the 552km Pisco to San Juan de Marcona stage.
Former winners Giniel de Villiers and Stéphane Peterhansel both performed well before the Frenchman got stuck with team-mate Cyril Despres towing Peterhansel out. Loeb upped the pressure to forge a strong lead, then held off Nani Roma late on to win by eight seconds.
"It was a good stage for me with no problems," said Loeb, who closed to within two minutes of the top spot. "We tried to take a good rhythm and to keep it."
The Toyota of De Villiers leads team-mate Bernhard ten Brinke by 2s8 seconds overall with Roma third, Yazeed al Rajhi fourth and Loeb fifth, a place ahead of Sainz.
Stage 1 leader Nasser Al-Attiyah struggled to end the day 3m 26s back overall with Despres two seconds further back and Peterhansel regaining some ground following his error to trail by almost 14 minutes.
The 13-time winner of the event said after the second stage: "We started with some electrical problems inside the car: no microphones, no air-conditioning, no wipers, nothing was OK. I lost my concentration a little bit and after I got stuck in a really bad place. We are happy because Cyril pulled us out."
Reigning bike champion Matthias Walkner (KTM) fought back brilliantly to win the second stage from Honda's Ricky Brabec. The American was the fastest rider to the first 50km mark with Walkner cutting the gap to just one second after 100km. Brabec pulled clear again, only for the Austrian to roar back to win by 22 seconds with third-placed Joan Barreda retaining his overall lead by 1m 31s.
"The cars were difficult to pass in places, but the most difficult was the fesh-fesh (fine sand) getting really loose," noted Walkner. "Sometimes with the bikes it was so deep that you can't miss some stones, so it was quite dangerous but fun."
Russian Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz-Master) was a class above in the trucks to win by 2m 39s over Gerard de Rooy (Petronas Team De Root Iveco), which left him with a 4:23 lead over the Dutchman overall.
Wednesday's Stage 3 will see the bikes and quads start out first from San Juan de Marcona to tackle 467km of liaison and a 331km special into Arequipa.