Spaniard Nani Roma moved into the Dakar Rally lead with victory in the third stage on Tuesday as favorite Stephane Peterhansel suffered a nightmare day.
Frenchman Peterhansel began the day in the overall lead following his victory in Monday’s second stage, but punctured six times as he came home in 28th place, more than 28 minutes down on Roma.
Poland’s Krzysztof Holowczyc came in second, 1 minute, 7 seconds down, with South African Leroy Poulter third at 3:19.
In the overall standings, Roma leads a trio of Mini drivers, with Argentine Orlando Terranova second at 9:06 and Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar in third at 10:00.
Terranova was fourth on the day, losing just under 5 minutes to Roma, while al-Attiyah came in seventh after suffering four punctures, losing just over 10 minutes.
Peterhansel is down in fifth place overall, but is 24:08 behind Roma and the 11-time former winner (six times in the moto section and five times in cars) admitted he had not enjoyed the 301km timed section from San Rafael to San Juan, Argentina.
“I’ve never known a Dakar stage like this one,” a frustrated Peterhansel said. “It was a nightmare today. We punctured six times. Unfortunately, we opened on the course and we paid for it. On the first I hit a big rock, that’s my fault, but then we were the first to go out and we found ourselves completely off-piste in very tall vegetation thanks to a last-gasp swerve due to bad weather and mud, and when we got out of that, we had three slow punctures out of four wheels, certainly due to the pines in the sides of the wheels.”
“Unfortunately, as we were the first car, we cleared the track for the rest behind. We were thrown into the lion’s den, but I can’t see how we could have done anything differently,” he said. “We couldn’t have imagined that in clearing a path in the vegetation we’d get three punctures out of four.”
For Roma, it was a particularly satisfying day.
“You know, sometimes the Dakar is crazy and this stage was like that,” Roma said. “The drivers in front of me had some problems, and I tried to be really concentrated all through the stage and not make mistakes. Anyway, I’ve got here and I’m happy, but on the Dakar, Valparaiso is still far. We need to be like that and really concentrate every day.”
In the motorcycle section, Spaniard Joan Barreda on a Honda increased his overall lead by winning the third stage, a 373km timed special.
Frenchman Cyril Despres on a Yamaha came in second, 4:41 back, with Spain’s Marc Coma was third on a KTM at 6:56.
The three remain in those exact positions in the overall standings, with Barreda holding a lead of more than 13 minutes.
It was a particularly physically demanding course for the motorcyclists, despite the length of the stage being reduced due to heavy rain.
It proved treacherous for one rider, as Portugal’s Ruben Faria had to be airlifted to hospital by helicopter after a crash, although that was more for precautionary reasons than anything else.