SAN RAFAEL, January 7- Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel bounced back on Monday to move into the lead of the 36th Dakar Rally following the second stage from San Luis to San Rafael in Argentina.
Peterhansel, in a Mini, was down in sixth at 4min 21sec from overnight leader Carlos Sousa of Portugal after suffering a puncture on Sunday’s opening stage.
The Frenchman, looking for a 12th Dakar title following six in the motorcycles and five previous ones in cars, prevailed after 433km in temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in 3hr 52min 05sec, 46sec ahead of Spain’s Carlos Sainz and 5min 34sec from South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers.
He now leads Buggy SMG driver Sainz by 28sec in the overall standings with his Mini team-mate Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, who crashed three times on the dirt and dunes course, in third at 4min 10sec.
Peterhansel was far chippier than he had been after Sunday’s stage.
“It was a nice stage, really fast at the beginning because the average was more than 100kph,” he said.
“It was a mix with a lot of fast tracks, then it was rios (riverbeds) with a lot of rocks and the risk of getting a puncture.
“At the end there were also very nice dunes, but the navigation was easy in the dunes because there were a lot of people everywhere in the dunes. At the top of each dune, it was necessary to follow the public, so it was easy to do the navigation.”
Sainz moved up after starting the day in fifth at more than 4min down.
“I think it was a good stage. We didn’t have any problems and we just went through very fast,” said the former World Rally champion.
“Some parts were very fast, there were some difficult dunes as well, but everything was ok. We didn’t have any punctures. I was a little bit careful to stop the tyres wearing.”
Briton Sam Sunderland won the day’s 359km motorcycle stage on a Honda in 3hr 42min 10sec ahead of Chile’s Francisco Lopez on a KTM, at 39sec, and Spain’s Joan Barreda, also on a Honda, at 2min.
“There weren’t so many dunes, maybe 50km or so, but it was definitely a lot of fun and a big mixture of terrains and different type of riding — some technical stuff, then some really high speed stuff,” said Dubai-based Sunderland.
“The bike was awesome. Hopefully I can carry on in this direction and have a good overall finish.”
Barreda maintained his overall lead, 2min 03sec ahead of Lopez with 24-year-old Sunderland, taking part in only his second Dakar Rally having abandoned last year, up to third at 2min 33sec.
Barreda said he’d had a troublesome ride in the final part.
“After one corner without visibility, there were a lot of boulders and I hit one,” he said.
“It’s possible that I broke something. The bike is not so badly broken at all, but part of the navigation system had a big impact on the boulder so it’s completely broken.
“So I had to ride to the finish with one eye on the road-book. I lost a little bit of time, but it’s an incredible job and I’m really happy.”