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When more than 600 000 spectators crowded around the starting podium in Buenos Aires on 4 January 2015, they were anticipating the adrenaline-filled days that lay ahead.
It is unlikely that any have been disappointed so far. The Dakar has once again proved to be a challenge not to be taken lightly.
To stand on a podium at the end of a Dakar rally is an Everest achievement that few experience.
The Dakar is never won on the first day, but is often lost at the start, as last years victor Nani Roma found out.
His Monster Energy Mini fell out of contention on the first day with major mechanical trouble. His teammate and local Argentinian rally hero Orlando Terranova, however, kept the Mini flag flying as did Quatar's Nassier Al-Attiyah in the Red Bull Mini.
At the end of stage three he holds a 5.18-minute lead. SA credentials have been maintained with Giniel de Villiers driving an almost flawless first three days and keeping his Toyota Hilux within striking distance of the leaders in a somewhat slower vehicle than the Minis.
The SA/ German team have an almost 13-minute lead on third-placed Terranova.
A great credit to team Toyota Imperial's driving and navigation skills.
A puncture is the only mechanical issue they have had to face so far and it bodes well for them.
Giniel is a former Dakar winner in 2009 and has placed second on three occasions, in 2011, 2013, and 2006.
British débutante Sam Sunderland had a dream start to the race on his KTM, taking honours in the Bike category on day one.
Day two, however,r saw him lose his way and fall back in the overall standings.
Spaniard Joan Barreda developed a significant lead in the motorcycle category by the end of day three, with pre-race favourite Marc Coma having a 10-minute deficit to make up in the overall standings.
Michal Hernik from Poland, 39, who was also competing in his first Dakar, was dead 300 metres off the San Juan – Chilecito route on the elective section on day three.
Stage director Etienne Lavigne, in an official statement released by the race management, said his KTM had no signs of being involved in an accident and the cause of death was not yet known.
All vehicles are fitted with electronic tracking devices and a search was conducted when his tracker stopped sending a signal.
Michal is the 66th person to lose their life at the Dakar since its inception in 1979.
Mechanical problems forced the all-woman team of Catherine Houles and Sandrine Ridet to withdraw from the race on day three.
Giniel de Villiers in the Dakar 2014: 4th (Toyota Hilux, 1 stage win) 2013: 2nd (Toyota Hilux) 2012: 3rd (Toyota Hilux) 2011: 2nd (Volkswagen, 1 stage win) 2010: 7th (Volkswagen) 2009: Winner (Volkswagen, 3 stage wins) 2007: 11th (Volkswagen, 4 stage wins) 2006: 2nd (Volkswagen, 1 stage win) 2005: 4th (Nissan, 2 stage wins) 2004: 7th (Nissan, 1 stage win) 2003: 5th (Nissan)