After a Stunning Stage, One Problem Sends Ales Loprais Back to Fourth Overall


Ales Loprais was the pacesetter of Stage 3, which he eventually could not win and the podium is still to be fought for.

Stage 3 of the Silk Way Rally did not bring as long time gaps as the previous stage but it brought all competitors to the desert of Kalmykia. The difficult final dune part kept many competitors on the track and especially car drivers were still on the way. The profile itself was not as difficult as the navigation, which played a key role in the stage – not only for the stage winner but also for Ales Loprais.

The driver of InstaForex Loprais Team was setting the pace of the truck category from the very beginning. He did not want to admit Hans Stacey to get too close, and he was going to attack the leading duo of Kamaz where the youth was following the experienced. At CP2, Ales was already 20 minutes ahead of Stacey and 7 minutes ahead of Kabirov and virtually grabbed the second place overall. He was also 3rd in absolute rankings, right after Holowczyc and Peterhansel. The truck went well but at the end of the stage a navigational flaw caused Ales to gain additional 35 minutes and lose what he had gained in the stage. He also lost more time and fell to the fourth overall.

"Today everything went well from the morning. I got very well used to the specifics of the new vehicle. When I already thought we got everything in bag there was a navigational problem and we lost a lot of time. This piece is hard to swallow. When we wake up in the morning we will continue at full pace and fight for the podium, though I admit that given the competition it is not an easy task," Ales Loprais summarized.

So, the stage has a surprising winner. The young Ayrat Mardeev on an older version of Kamaz 4911 who had been struck by a two-hour loss the day before was the fastest in Stage 3 and he gave much credit of his victory to the experienced navigator, Aydar Belyaev, who is normally the navigator of Firdaus Kabirov. After the decision of the team management, young Kamaz drivers are navigated by the most experienced navigators to gain more experience. It is the Kamaz youth (Nikolaev, Mardeev jr. and Karginov) who have made a significant progress in driving abilities. The team sent them to the desert Challenge in Dubai but did not send the experienced part with them. The desert preparation paid very well. Last year they attacked only Top 10, this year they fight for the top. Another day of bad luck has been recorded by another Kamaz pilot of the Astana team, Ardavichus. He was very fast on most of the stage but at the end lost some two hours again. Peter Versluis gained the first bigger loss but managed to retain his overall position, unlike the Tatra of Marek Spacil who was replaced in Top 10 by Echter and today's stage winner.

The Bonver Dakar Team crew reached the finish 22nd again. "Today we took as a stabilization day to save ourselves and the truck. However, after CP2 we broke the gearshift rod and had to repair again, which resulted in a two-hour loss. But a soft sand did not cause us any problems," pilot Tomas Vratny said.

Stage 4 will be one of the key ones. The assistance teams stay in Astrakhan and the loop stage will contain 400 kilometers in the sands of the Kalmykian desert and almost no liaison. The speed average will most probably be quite far from record levels. The experience with sand and dunes will surely help as well as a precise navigation.

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