Stéphane Peterhansel claimed victory at Dakar Rally 2017 after Nasser Al-Attiyah suffered a serious mechanical to all but end his hopes of overall victory.
The defending champion took advantage of a dramatic end to Stage 3 to claim his first victory of the race and give Team Peugeot a 1-2-3.
According to many, Dakar Rally 2017 officially got underway on Wednesday with the first real navigational stage testing drivers and co-drivers alike.
A 780km route through Argentina from San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy, featuring a 364km special stage, tested even the most experienced campaigners.
Alongside the navigational difficulties, weather and altitude played a big role with the riders and drivers climbing as high as 5000 metres and seeing an estimated change in temperature from 36°C to 5°C.
Al-Attiyah had been Mr Consistency in the race so far and it was all going so well for the Toyota Gazoo Racing leader until kilometre 414 when his Hilux suddenly stopped with a technical issue.
Having been a man on a mission earlier in the day and leading the stage despite Peterhansel getting off to a blistering start, his situation turned serious when he appeared to break the front of his car. He continued to fight and nursed the car home two hours and 17 minutes after the Frenchman.
Carlos Sainz finished nearly two minutes back from teammate, with Sébastien Loeb in third and Cyril Despres in fifth as Team Peugeot dominated the day, while another race favourite Giniel de Villiers added to Toyota’s problems by also stopping and losing time towards the end.
Peterhansel said: “It seems like we have secured a very good result for Team Peugeot Total. It’s nice to win a stage but that is not the important thing so early in the rally. The speed of our car was good and we were able to be consistent by not stopping once. My co-driver also did a great job today with the navigation.”
Sainz added: “We were pushing to the limit today after losing some time in the first part of the stage. We hit our rhythm in the second part and were able to recover most of the time we lost. Today has shown us once again that anything can happen at the Dakar on any stage.”
The bike riders had the honour of setting off first on the tricky 45km open navigation section but race leader Toby Price endured a troublesome start, losing 20 minutes in the first 75km to Joan Barreda.
The Spaniard proceeded to take command of the general standings by blowing his rivals into the dust and taking the victory by more than 13 minutes from Sam Sunderland and claiming a 23 minute advantage over Price.
Toby Price said: “The first part of the roadbook was definitely tricky and I think we all got a little bit out of whack there and a little bit lost. We definitely lost a bit of time today; but there’s still a long way to go. I won last year by almost forty minutes so surely we can try and do something.”
Sunderland added: “I could definitely feel the altitude having an effect when we reached 5,000 metres (above sea level). It’s something that adds to the difficulty but it’s the same for everybody, we’re all in the same boat.”
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