Veteran Peterhansel says stage win a step towards Dakar overall victory
FIAMBALA, Argentina: French veteran Stephane Peterhansel won stage three of the Dakar Rally here on Monday and claimed it was a step towards overall victory in the testing event.
Peterhansel, having threatened to pull down the curtain on his career after quitting following stage seven last year with a broken engine and then seeing his then-team Mitsubishi leave the sport for financial reasons, steered his BMW to what was his 52nd special stage victory on the Dakar and his 19th on four wheels.
“We’ve had a good day. We started sixth and finished first,” said the six-time winner of the motorcycle event and a three-time auto section winner.
“It wasn’t an easy day, with a short special in terms of distance,” he said of the 182km timed run from La Rioja to Fiambala.
“There were soft dunes, quite complicated off-road parts, big tufts of camel grass and then a big sandy climb which even the powerful race organisation vehicles had trouble getting up.
“In short, it was hard. We also saw plenty of bikers who had stopped. The difference today could be seen right from the start, when some riders and drivers got lost, but we got it right with our navigation.
“Afterwards, we continued to attack and didn’t let the pressure drop. For the moment, I’m not interested in stage victories, I’m more bothered about outright victory in the general standings.
“Today is a step along the road to victory. We’ll see what the rest of the race has in store.”
Peterhansel finished 5min 44sec ahead of VW’s Carlos Sainz of Spain, and the Frenchman now heads up the overall standings, 4min 33sec ahead of the Spaniard.
“It was difficult today,” acknowledged Sainz. “We had a few problems due to the engine heating and it’s harder to get through in those conditions.
“We tried to attack but we didn’t take any risks. When Peterhansel overtook us, we tried to follow, but he was going too fast.”
The motorcycling section was won by a dominant Cyril Despres on his KTM.
Despres finished a testing stage that included dunes 10min 40sec ahead of Yamaha’s Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues, with David Casteu of Sherco in fourth.
Despres, who leapfrogged compatriot Casteu in the overall standings and now holds a lead of more than 10 minutes, compared the stage to an African-style one.
“This is one of those stages when you set out in the morning and you think to yourself, ‘okay, 180km, that will be easy. We’ll soon be at the bivouac’,” he said.
“But there you are, we’ve just spent three hours battling on the bikes. It was a really African-like stage: physically tough with the heat, soft dunes and mechanical aspects to deal with.
“The bike suffered a bit on the first part, so I had to look after the engine. I tried to ride at a cooler pace for the last 80 km, but it was still sporty anyway.”
Casteu said he had teammate Marc Coma to thank for getting him back on track after the duo had both fallen.
“When I stopped to help him, I couldn’t restart due to battery problems,” Casteu said.
“Fortunately, I had some jump leads with me, so I was able to recharge my battery with his bike. I was looking at all the temperature gauges and saw that it climbed to more than 100 degrees.
“In the big climb up the dunes, I was looking at the bike and thinking, ‘poor thing, if it manages not to break here, it will be okay for the rest of the rally’.” — AFP