Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel bounced back on Monday to move into the lead of the 36th Dakar Rally following the second stage from San Luis to San Rafael in Argentina.
Peterhansel, in a Mini, was down in sixth at 4 minutes 21 seconds from overnight leader Carlos Sousa of Portugal after suffering a puncture on Sunday’s opening stage.
The Frenchman, looking for a 12th Dakar title following six in the motorcycles and five previous ones in cars, prevailed after 433km in temperatures reaching 40?C in 3 hours 52 minutes 5 seconds, which was 46 seconds ahead of Spain’s Carlos Sainz and 5 minutes 34 seconds from South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers.
He now leads Buggy SMG driver Sainz by 28 seconds in the overall standings with his Mini team-mate Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, who crashed three times on the dirt and dunes course, in third at 4 minutes 10 seconds.
Peterhansel was far chippier than he had been after Sunday’s stage.
“It was a nice stage, really fast at the beginning because the average was more than 100kph,” he said.
“It was a mix with a lot of fast tracks, then it was rios [riverbeds] with a lot of rocks and the risk of getting a puncture,” Peterhansel said.
“At the end there were also very nice dunes ... At the top of each dune, it was necessary to follow the public, so it was easy to do the navigation,” he added.
Sainz moved up after starting the day in fifth at more than 4 minutes down.
“I think it was a good stage. We didn’t have any problems and we just went through very fast,” he said.
Briton Sam Sunderland won the day’s 359km motorcycle stage on a Honda in 3 hours 42 minutes 10 seconds ahead of Chile’s Francisco Lopez on a KTM, at 39 seconds, and Spain’s Joan Barreda, also on a Honda, at 2 minutes.
“It was definitely a lot of fun and a big mixture of terrains and different type of riding — some technical stuff, then some really high speed stuff,” Dubai-based Sunderland said. “The bike was awesome. Hopefully I can carry on in this direction and have a good overall finish.”
Barreda maintained his overall lead, 2 minutes 3 seconds ahead of Lopez with 24-year-old Sunderland, taking part in only his second Dakar Rally having abandoned last year, up to third at 2 minutes 33 seconds.
Barreda said he had had a troublesome ride in the final part.
“After one corner without visibility, there were a lot of boulders and I hit one,” he said. “It’s possible that I broke something ... Part of the navigation system had a big impact on the boulder so it’s completely broken,” Barreda said.