A collision caused Dakar legend to lose Stage 10 before getting time back to take the overall lead.
Racing resumed on Thursday at Dakar Rally 2017 with a 449-kilometre stage from Chilecito to San Juan in Argentina.
And it wasn’t plain racing: Stéphane Peterhansel’s collision with another competitor temporally upset the car rankings, biker Stefan Svitko fell of exhaustion just after taking third, and Eduard Nikolaev became the new truck leader.
Stéphane Peterhansel led the race early on, before his collision with biker Simon Marčič forced him to stop. The 12-time Dakar winner waited for the medical team with him before resuming the stage.
Because of the time Peterhansel lost assisting the biker, it was Cyril Despres who finished the first section the fastest, with Sébastien Loeb trailing him by 6’28.
Nine-time WRC champion Loeb then picked up the pace in the last part of the Special and took what was thought to be his fourth stage victory this year. Provisional results in San Juan said Despres finished in second place (+2’33) and Peterhansel in third (6’45).
But their Team Peugeot Total teammate was given back the time lost in the accident, officially winning Stage 10 ahead of Loeb (+ 07’28) and Despres (+ 10’01).
“There was a biker in front of me reversing and when he saw me he hit the brakes but we collided,” said Peterhansel. “His leg was broken but he was still conscious. We stayed with him until the medical helicopter arrived. After that, it was difficult to drive with a good speed.
“The main thing I’m interested in is getting news to know how the biker is doing.”
With two stages left, Peterhansel is now 5’50 ahead of Loeb and 25’40 ahead of former bike winner Despres in the overall standings.
“I think it was impossible to go any faster,” added Loeb. “I tried all I could. We’ll see.”
A tricky stage in terms of navigation, and one that saw many favourites drive in the wrong direction.
Frenchman Michael Metge and Spaniard Joan Barreda took the first two spots, followed by Slovakian Stefan Svitko who collapsed of exhaustion shortly after the finish line. He’s now been taken to San Juan hospital.
KTM riders Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland finished respectively in 11th and 13th place, 13’48 and 18’01 behind Metge. Despite a result due to a navigation mistake at the 39th km, Sunderland is still leading overall.
“With so many riverbeds at the beginning it was tough to follow the correct one,” explained the British rider. “I made a few mistakes before the refuel and that got me stressed out because I didn’t know where the other bikes were. Then at the refuel there were only three bikes there so I knew my mistakes hadn’t been too costly.”
Pablo Quintanilla, who was second overall at the start of Stage 10, fell off his bike and has been diagnosed with a head trauma. As a result, Walkner climbs to second place in the general rankings, just under 30 minutes behind Sunderland.
“I’ve never finished the Dakar so to be here on Day 11 and to be leading is a dream come true,” added Sunderland. “To have my friend Matthias here with me as well is great because we have both worked hard and been through it a bit to get here.”
Chilean Ignacio Casale continued to fight his category leader Sergey Karyakin. The Russian set the pace today, but Casale hung on to eventually concede a little more than 10 minutes to his rival. There’s now 21’05 separating runner-up Casale and Karyakin.
Having won the truck title in 2013, Eduard Nikolaev of Team Kamaz Master proved he still got it after setting Thursday’s fastest time. The result sees Nikolaev leapfrog his Kamaz teammate Dmitry Sotnikov who finished second and now holds the runners-up spot in the general classification. Ayrat Mardeev came home third to give Kamaz a 1-2-3 result.
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