Pisco, Peru: Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel took the overall lead in the Dakar Rally on Sunday by winning a treacherous second stage around Pisco, which was costly for some title favourites.
Peterhansel, the rally’s most successful driver with 10 victories, took more than two-and-a-half hours to complete the 240km loop around the Peruvian city that was entirely on sand, and it earned a record 60th career stage win for the man they call “Mr Dakar.”
In jumping from sixth to first in the overall standings, the Frenchman in the Mini gave all the credit to his co-driver, Jean-Paul Cottret, who has been beside him for all of his record-tying four wins in a car, following six on motorcycles.
“We’re fast, and we’ve got the potential to go even faster, but it was mostly Jean-Paul’s navigation which saved the day, nothing else,” Peterhansel said.
The other podium finishers also matched their overall standings. Giniel de Villiers of South Africa, the champion four years ago, was two minutes and 38 seconds behind overall and third-placed Frenchman, Ronan Chabot, was three minutes and 46 seconds behind in a buggy.
Meanwhile, navigation problems dogged recent champs Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz.
Al-Attiyah was sixth overall, 10:25 down, and first-stage winner Sainz fell to 11th, 16:21 behind. Nani Roma, last year’s runner-up, lost more than 20 minutes to trail by more than 24 minutes in 15th place.
The good news for Roma was that his protege, Joan Barreda, easily won the bike stage on his Husqvarna and has an overall lead of three and a half minutes.
Ruben Faria of Portgual, fourth on the stage, was second overall, and Juan Pedrero Garcia of Spain was third, six and a half minutes off the pace. Defending champion Cyril Despres, 12th on the stage, was fifth overall but 8:50 behind.
Barreda trains with Roma, the first Spaniard to win the Dakar on a bike in 2004, and Roma continues to offer advice. Barreda was 11th last year in his second Dakar and won a late stage.
“I got lost at the beginning of the stage,” he said on Sunday. “But I wasn’t the only one who needed some time to find his bearings. I quickly got back on track and everything went smoothly from then on. It was a great day at the office.”