Joan Barreda delivered a high-level performance on the tricky route leading to San Salvador de Jujuy and won his first special stage of the year with a huge lead over his rivals, perhaps a decisive step towards his first triumph on the Dakar…

Today brought a change of scenery and the first portions of off-terrain rallying. However, it is the steep climb in altitude with passages above 5,000 metres that could wreak havoc among the competitors at the end of the day. River bed crossings, plus fast and winding tracks on the first part of the stage gave way to a finish on bumpy and trial-like terrain, requiring the competitors to remain watchful and keep their cool to avoid losing out big time on the route to San Salvador de Jujuy.

Joan Barreda hit his rivals with a veritable hammer blow on this third stage. On all out attack from the very first kilometres of the special, the official HRC rider soon opened up an impressive gap, in particular reaching the first time check point with a 20-minute lead over the struggling Toby Price. The Australian loses command of the general standings to Barreda whilst Sam Sunderland made the most of a tough day to finish 13’29 behind the Spaniard and overtake Paulo Goncalves in the general standings.

By finishing 16 minutes behind Joan Barreda, Pierre-Alexandre Renet by no means achieved the best time of the year, but the man from Normandy put in a very good performance on only his second Dakar to pick up third place on the day, in front of many favourites for outright victory. Behind the handlebars of his official Husqvarna, the former MX3 world champion perfectly handled a tricky start to the stage and will now have to be taken seriously by all his adversaries.

In losing more than 34 minutes to Joan Barreda on his third day of the rally, Xavier de Soultrait spoiled his fine performances on the first two days. The Frenchman is now at the wrong end of a gap that will be difficult to close on his main rivals, even if all is not lost yet.

By winning his 14th stage victory on the Dakar, Joan Barreda equals the great Fabrizio Meoni’s number of triumphs and is only one stage win behind Richard Sainct.

Joan Barreda: “Today was one of the days that we picked and we prepared for it from yesterday to attack. It was a really tough stage but I kept my focus during all the stage”.