Frenchmen Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres have virtually won another Dakar Rally with strong finishes in the penultimate 13th stage on Saturday.
Peterhansel, already top of the Dakar winners’ list with nine titles, and Despres, a three-time winner, only needed to endure the 30km special into the Peruvian capital of Lima yesterday without a technical hitch to triumph again.
Overall, Peterhansel was almost 43 minutes ahead of second-placed Mini teammate Joan Roma of Spain, but he wasn’t taking anything for granted.
“I am still holding my breath this evening,” Peterhansel said. “I will breathe again once I am on the podium.”
The 46-year-old Peterhansel, a Dakar competitor since 1988, has won on motorbikes six times, and three times in cars, the last in 2007.
In Saturday’s 275km special between Nazca and Pisco, featuring dunes and confusing valleys, Peterhansel won without initially intending to. Taking a cautious approach, he finished first, 8 minutes, 29 seconds ahead of the Toyota of 2009 winner Giniel De Villiers of South Africa.
“It was not a stage we were trying to win,” he said. “First and foremost, we wanted to avoid falling into traps, especially after getting stuck in the sand yesterday. It was the toughest stage of the entire Dakar with regard to the dunes.”
Of his rivals, Roma got stuck in sand for 25 minutes, while American Robby Gordon dropped back one spot to fifth after doing a somersault in his Hummer.