SAN JUAN, Argentina, Jan 12 – Stephane Peterhansel reclaimed the lead of the Dakar Rally on Thursday after he was rewarded for his sporting decision to stop and help a seriously injured competitor.
His French compatriot and Peugeot teammate Sebastien Loeb was originally declared the winner of the 10th stage Chilecito and San Juan.
The nine-time world rally champion clocked 4hr 54min 28sec, with Cyril Despres in second at 2min33sec and Peterhansel third at 6:45sec.
But 12-time champion Peterhansel was later handed back 14min 13sec by organisers after he stopped his car to help Slovenian motorbike rider Simon Marcic at the 83km marker after the two had collided.
Marcic suffered an horrific broken left leg leaving 51-year-old Peterhansel to decide to wait with the stricken rider until an emergency helicopter arrived to airlift the Slovenian to hospital.
“Today was a really complicated, everybody was completely lost,” said Peterhansel who now leads Loeb in the overall standings by 5min 50sec with just two days of the gruelling 9,000km to run on Friday and Saturday.
“When the biker saw me he put the brakes on and crashed and I stopped on him. I saw that his leg was broken but he was still conscious.
“We stayed for about fifteen or twenty minutes with him to wait for the medical helicopter. Afterwards, it was really complicated to restart, to drive at a good speed.
“It wasn’t an easy day, but the main thing wasn’t the race today, it was the crash with the biker.”
France’s Michael Metge won the motorbike stage as Britain’s Sam Sunderland retained the overall lead and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla crashed out.
The older of the two Metge brothers completed the ride in 5hrs 48min 50sec.
In second came Spanish rider Joan Barreda almost one minute adrift with Slovakia’s Stefan Svitko in third at 1min 19sec.
Svitko then pulled out of the race suffering from illness.
“This stage was amazing. On this Dakar it was the most difficult stage, for sure,” said Metge.
A first special victory is amazing, it’s really good. I can’t imagine because for the moment I’ve not quite realised. Today was difficult and the last kilometres were really complicated. I think in about two minutes, I will start to understand what has happened”.
Sunderland now tops the overall ranking by half an hour from Austrian Matthias Walkner after the Briton’s closest pursuer Quintanilla raised the white flag of surrender after suffering dizzy spells 400km into the stage.