Dakar Rally leader Stephane Peterhansel wins his first stage of this year's race
French driver takes advantage of countryman Serradori breaking down near end, while Al-Attiyah and Sainz both suffer problematic days
Stephane Peterhansel won his first stage of this Dakar Rally and stretched his overall lead after mishaps by rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah and defending champion Carlos Sainz on Tuesday.
Peterhansel has led the rally for nine straight days but finally won a stage when French countryman Mathieu Serradori broke down while leading 80 kilometres from the finish of the 465-km loop around Neom in northern Saudi Arabia.
Peterhansel finished ahead of Al-Attiyah by 12 minutes, pushing his lead over the Qatari to a handy 18 minutes with three stages to go.
"It was a real Dakar stage, a little bit like in the past in Africa, where it was not only a question of speed but it was also a question of strategy, just to adapt the speed to the condition of the tracks,” Peterhansel said.
Al-Attiyah suffered three tire punctures which left him with no spares on the stage.
"We can't change anything with the tires. That's life, I'm not disappointed,” Al-Attiyah said. “I'm here at the finishing line. Everything is possible.”
Sainz was the only other driver within two hours of Peterhansel overall. The Spaniard was an hour back after suffering another puncture and a brakes problem.
There was mayhem in the motorbike race as two-time champion Toby Price of Australia and Luciano Benavides of Argentina crashed and had to be airlifted to hospital.
Price, second overall, fell about 150km in and injured his left arm and shoulder. Ricky Brabec and Sam Sunderland waited with him until the helicopter arrived. Benavides, lying 10th overall, crashed after about 240km and hurt his shoulder.
Ross Branch, 13th overall, was also out after his Yamaha engine broke down.
Kevin Benavides' second stage win of this Dakar improved the Argentine, the older brother of the injured Luciano, from fourth overall to second, 11 minutes behind leader Jose Ignacio Cornejo of Chile.
"Everyone is starting to push, to play their last cards, to try to advance or to get overall victory. Everyone wants it, you know, so I understand them,” Ignacio Cornejo said.
“When you push to the limit, sometimes you make mistakes. You have to try to control the danger as much as you can, but sometimes too many things happen: Rocks, you're navigating, going fast ... it's tough to finish without any crashes.”
Sunderland was 14 minutes back, and defending champion Brabec 17 minutes back in fourth. The rally ends in Jeddah on Friday .
Published: January 12, 2021 07:54 PM