Wed, Jan 12, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Peterhansel retains grip on the Dakar Rally lead

AFP , ATAR, MAURITANIA

France's Stephane Peterhansel drives his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo during the 10th stage of the 27th Dakar Rally around Atar, Mauritania on Monday. Peterhansel won the stage.

PHOTO: AFP

Defending Dakar Rally champion Stephane Peterhansel of France won the 483km 10th stage of the Dakar-2005 rally on Monday.

Driving a Mitsubishi, he completed the stage in 5 hours 22 minutes 58 seconds to finish 1min 27sec clear of team-mate Luc Alphand.

However, there was bad news for the team as two-time champion Hiroshi Masuoka was forced to withdraw because of engine problems after stopping at the 100km mark and with Alphand also struggling with the same worries, the team preferred to focus on the Frenchman's car instead.

Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt came third, 30min 27sec off the pace.

Peterhansel kept a grip on the overall lead in the race, 21min 28sec ahead of former skiing great Alphand and 1hr 10mins 45sec clear of Kleinschmidt.

"It was a very good day. We caught Luc Alphand after only 80km, and then we drove more or less together until the end of the stage," Peterhansel said.

Alphand -- winner of the World Cup skiing overall title in 1997 -- said he was pleased with his second-place finish.

"We drove very quickly today. The goal was to manage a gap between us and Jutta and she lost half an hour on the stage, so I'm really happy," he said.

Earlier on Monday, motorcyclist Cyril Despres, riding a KTM, made it a one-two for France when he won the 10th stage of the motorbike rally and regained top spot in the overall standings from overnight leader, Italian Fabrizio Meoni.

Despres completed the 483km special around the Mauritanian town of Atar in five hours, 28 minutes and 26 seconds, more than 10 minutes ahead of Meoni.

Spain's Isidre Esteve Pujol was third, 12min 24sec off the pace.

Marc Coma, third in the overall standings, lost a vital 15 minutes after running out of petrol, and finished the special in fifth place behind France's David Fretigne.

"Ten years ago, I started riding just to enjoy these kind of stages," Despres said.

"I knew that the Dakar Rally will really start today, because on all the previous days it was simply impossible to make a difference. On this stage, I felt great at full speed," he said.

Despres dedicated his stage win to amateur Spanish rider Jose Manuel Perez, 41, who crashed during Thursday's stage and died of his injuries in hospital on Monday.

Perez had been operated on locally, having his spleen, liver and one of his kidneys removed, before being flown back to Alicante where he died.

Race director Patrick Zaniroli announced that the 11th special yesterday had been cut from 656km to 256km after winds whipped 10cm of fresh sand over the first 400km of the course.

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