Stephane Peterhansel took a giant step towards victory in the 2016 Dakar Rally after winning yesterday’s 10th stage as both Carlos Sainz and Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah hit major trouble.
Peterhansel started the day in second place in the standings, behind Sainz, but the Spaniard’s chances vanished when he stopped with mechanical problems near the end of the day.
Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar drives his Mini during the Dakar Rally. (Reuters)
At the time of writing, the Spaniard was still waiting for assistance.
Al-Attiyah, third at the start of the day, lost over 52 minutes after rolling his X-raid Mini.
The day included a 278-km special, with a mammoth connection of 485km from Belen to La Rioja. The start was slightly delayed because of the rising of a river.
Al-Attiyah’s day got off to a poor start when he rolled his Mini less than six km into the stage.
Although he eventually managed to continue, the Qatari lost over 28 minutes to Peterhansel at the first control point.
Al-Attiyah said: “We did a barrell roll after we hit an embankment 10 km into the special, and it took us a while to put the car back upright.
“We had to take risks today... After that things got tricky because the car was damaged and we had to finish the stage without further problems.
“At the end of the day, I’m happy to make it to the finish. The ceiling and the cooling system were broken, and we had to stop several times to check whether everything was in order.
“Despite the adversities, we limited our losses to Giniel and Mikko. We’re second overall, and now we have to try and defend this position.”
Peterhansel himself - and also Sainz and Mikko Hirvonen - lost time early on after getting lost in the dunes, although that did not stop the Frenchman from emerging as the quickest driver by nearly six minutes at CP1.
Peterhansel also set the pace at the second control point, increasing the gap to his closest pursuer - Cyril Despres - to nearly nine minutes.
Sainz, meanwhile, was 20 minutes slower than his French rival.
But it all came to a sudden end for the Spaniard, who stopped with a broken gearbox case 213km into the stage.
Peterhansel reached the finish in 4h13m32s, beating Peugeot teammate Despres by 5m40s and Toyota’s Vladimir Vasilyev by 12m56s.
Peterhansel said: “We had a terrible start to the special. We got lost at km 32 and wandered around for at least 15 minutes. I blew a fuse because I thought I’d lost everything.
“We took risks and threw caution to the wind. We pushed very hard because we knew today was the decisive stage. It was a stage with very tricky navigation, off-track sections, drainage channels... Everything that makes rally raid hard. As usual, this is where you see huge gaps.
“I had a flat tyre and started screaming my head off, I was a bit out of my mind today. However, when we got going, we were fast. We took a huge leap in the overall. It’s also good to know we’ve got Cyril right behind us to give us a hand. He’s helping us out even though he wasn’t supposed to do that at the start, it’s awesome.”
Meanwhile, Australian Toby Price has won the ninth stage of the Dakar Rally for motorbikes, which was halted after 179km of the planned 436km run on Tuesday.
The stage around Belen in Argentina was halted due to the extreme heat, but it was completed on Wednesday and Price, on a KTM, was declared the winner as he extended his overall lead.
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