2007 Dakar winner Cyril Despres won the third stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally and now leads the overall standings for the first time in three years.
Despres didn’t put a wheel wrong in the 182KM Special and navigated his way through the sand dunes to win the stage by 10m 40s.
Despres said: “It’s been a long time since I’ve led the Dakar and it feels good. It was a really African-like stage: physically tough with the heat, soft dunes and mechanical aspects to deal with.
"I had a small problem at the beginning and then at the end but I know that the Dakar is a very long race so I just stayed calm”
Second place on the day went to Portuguese Yamaha rider Helder Roidriguez who impressive performance has seen him move up top third in the overall standings.
Sherco rider David Casteu is now second overall after finishing fourth on the day.
Casteu lost valuable time when he stopped to help friend and rival Marc Coma who had an overheating problem with his KTM.
Casteu’ s own bike then cut out and he had to get a jump start by Coma to enable him to continue his race.
Coma now holds eighth overall but is now 42m 04s behind the lead after his problems today and his 22 minute penalty yesterday for speeding in a village.
“Today was a good opportunity for me to get some time back and at the start of the stage I was really pushing and I felt good.
"After about 30km I had a problem with the bike and it cut out three times. Each time I had to wait for the temperature to go down before it would start.
"It’s a big problem because I’ve lost a lot of time, but like always I will continue to do my best.
"Now my strategy will completely change and instead of thinking about the overall classification I will take the rally day by day.”
Stage 3 – La Rioja to Fiambala
Monday 4th January 2010
Pos. N° Name Make Time Variation Penalty
1 002 DESPRES (FRA) KTM 08:54:04 00:00:00
2 003 CASTEU (FRA) SHERCO 09:04:07 00:10:03
3 005 RODRIGUES (PRT) YAMAHA 09:12:01 00:17:57
4 031 MANCA (ITA) KTM 09:18:33 00:24:29
5 014 DUCLOS (FRA) KTM 09:25:02 00:30:58
6 024 STREET (USA) KTM 09:27:30 00:33:26
7 009 LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) APRILIA 09:31:19 00:37:15
8 001 COMA (ESP) KTM 09:36:08 00:42:04 22:00
9 004 ULLEVALSETER (NOR) KTM 09:39:27 00:45:23
10 010 GONÇALVES (PRT) BMW 09:47:17 00:53:13
98 CARLYLE (GBR) KTM 17:25:48 08:31:44
99 BOUNDS (GBR) KTM 17:33:55 08:39:51
107 NERI (GBR) KTM 20:23:01 11:28:57 04:00
112 NOONE (IRL) KTM 25:18:10 16:24:06