TUPIZA, Bolivia, Jan 14 – Stephane Peterhansel won Sunday’s eighth stage of the Dakar Rally from Uyuni to Tupiza in Bolivia, a day after suspension failure dealt the Frenchman a crushing blow to his title hopes.
Peterhansel, bidding for a third successive triumph on four wheels, lost almost two hours to Spaniard Carlos Sainz on Saturday when he ground to a halt after hitting a stone while trying to pass another competitor.
But the 52-year-old shook off that setback to finish Sunday’s 498-kilometre run in 5hr 15min 18sec, less than a minute ahead of compatriot and Peugeot teammate Cyril Despres.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah was 2min 12sec behind in third in his Toyota, but 2010 champion Sainz still leads by over an hour despite trailing home in fifth place.
“I had trouble sleeping last night. The excitement of the day itself, the rush of adrenaline and the disappointment at the same time…you sort of go back over the moment where it goes bang,” said Peterhansel, who is third overall.
“I felt drowsy this morning. Winning is always nice, but when you know you’re more than an hour adrift and you gain just a few minutes, it’s scant consolation.”
Organisers have decided to cancel Monday’s ninth stage from Tupiza to Salta in Argentina, which was set to feature a 242km timed section, due to poor weather.
“The stage is cancelled because there’s a lot of water in the bivouac today, and tomorrow we’re expecting some storms as well. These are not the best conditions to hold the stage,” the rally’s sporting director Marc Coma told AFP.
“We prefer not to take any risks,” he added.
Last year’s rally was also hit by weather problems after torrential rain, and then a huge mudslide, forced organisers to scrap two stages, while the opening stage of the 2016 event was cancelled after parts of the course were left flooded.
Frenchman Antoine Meo won Sunday’s motorcycle special, but his compatriot Adrien van Beveren retained the overall lead.
Meo, riding a KTM, won for the second time in the race after taking stage in 5hr 24min 01sec.
American Ricky Brabec was second on a Honda 1min 08sec back and another KTM rider, Australian Toby Price was third.
Van Beveren, who rides a Yamaha, lost 8min 44sec but remains 22 seconds ahead of Argentine Kevin Benavides in the overall standings.