AREQUIPA, Peru, Jan 9 – Thirteen-time winner Stephane Peterhansel swept to victory on the third stage of the Dakar Rally as Sebastien Loeb’s dream of adding victory in the gruelling endurance race to his nine world rally titles suffered a fog-hit setback.
Peterhansel, behind the wheel of a Mini, ended the 798km run to Arequipa with a 3min 26sec lead over two-time champion Nasser al-Attiyah in a Toyota and 11min 47sec in front of Mini teammate Jakub Przygonski.
Overall, Qatari driver al-Attiyah seized the overall lead from Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers, and has a 6min 48sec edge over Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajhi in a Mini.
“It was a great stage for us. We only had a small puncture, which only cost us two minutes,” said al-Attiyah.
“It’s a good day, we have reason to be happy. From what I’ve heard, there’s going to be lots of fesh-fesh tomorrow, we’ll have to keep our guard up in the marathon stage. After that, we’ll keep attacking.”
Peterhansel is third overall, 7min 03sec off the lead, after claiming his 75th career stage win on the race.
“It was a nice stage, with tough dunes and tricky navigation: hard-to-find waypoints in the valleys. It was a quintessentially Peruvian stage and the sign of things to come in the next few days,” said Peterhansel.
Loeb, driving a private Peugeot and who won Tuesday’s second stage, was 42 minutes behind Peterhansel after a difficult day in which he lost his way in the fog and is eighth overall.
Defending champion Carlos Sainz, like Loeb a former world rally champion, suffered a nightmare third stage when the front suspension on his Mini broke in the early stages of Wednesday’s run.
The Spaniard was held up for over three hours as a result, sending him down the standings.
In the motorcycling section, French Yamaha rider Xavier de Soultrait won the third stage while experienced Spanish rider Joan Barreda was forced to quit the race on his Honda.
“I’m very disappointed. I got off to a great start, feeling strong, attacking and catching up with the riders in front of me,” said Barreda who had led overnight.
“I got to a summit where it was really foggy. There was no visibility and I went down the wrong descent. It was extremely slippery, it was impossible for me to get back up.”
De Soultrait finished 15 seconds ahead of Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla on a Husqvarna.
Quintanilla now leads the overall standings with an 11min 23sec advantage over Argentina’s Kevin Benavides on a Honda who was third on Wednesday.
Thursday’s fourth stage will cover 511km (351km timed) from Arequipa to Tacna in the south of Peru.