Former champion Stephane Peterhansel took a chunk out of Sebastien Loeb’s overall Dakar Rally race lead with a tight victory in Wednesday’s fourth stage at Jujuy in Argentina.
The 50-year-old Team Peugeot Total driver, who has won the Dakar title a record 11 times across bike and car categories, won the marathon 429-km round stage by just 11 seconds from another former multiple champion, team mate Carlos Sainz.
Loeb, racing the Dakar for the first time having won the World Rally title nine times earlier in his career, completed the Team Peugeot Total 1-2-3 to maintain his overall race lead at four minutes 48 seconds from Peterhansel, with reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah improving to third place for Mini.
“We’ve had another good day,’ said Loeb after defending his lead earned with back-to-back stage wins on Monday and Tuesday.
“(Co-driver) Daniel’s (Elena) work with the road book was perfect and there was absolutely no navigation mistakes for us today.
“This allowed me to focus on keeping a good rhythm. I’m happy with our stage, we didn’t take any big risks out there because this is the first half of a marathon stage. Another stage win would have been nice, but it was more important to stick to a safe rhythm and that’s what we did.”
Al-Attiyah was philosophical about his stage, admitting his rivals were difficult to keep pace with.
“It’s not easy. I did my best to attack but you just can’t keep up with the Peugeots,’ he said.
“You had to be careful as it’s a marathon stage and you can’t change anything on the car apart from the tyres. You can wash the car, but you can’t make mistakes! I tried to, but there was no way I could follow Seb. His car is really fast.”
In a tight bikes category, Portuguese Paulo Goncalves stole a march on his rivals to take a two minute 17 second lead for Honda.
He leads from team mate and home favourite Kevin Benavides with overnight leader Joan Barreda completing a Honda 1-2-3 at the top of the timings.