Peterhansel in Top 10 as Sainz bows out for Team Peugeot Total
The emotional rollercoaster of the first Dakar for the Team Peugeot Total continued in Chile today, with Stéphane Peterhansel moving up into the top 10 while Carlos Sainz retired as the result of an accident – from which both he and co-driver Lucas Cruz emerged unharmed.
Cyril Despres did not have an easy day after taking a wheel off his car, and is currently completing the final kilometres of the stage.
The 9000-kilometre Dakar is renowned as being the toughest race in the world, and already it has been showing its bite. The arduous 458-kilometre stage today was characterised by long stretches of fesh-fesh: fine powdery sand that throws up plenty of dust, making it extremely difficult to read the road.
Peterhansel (#302) nonetheless made excellent progress, moving up from 12th overall last night into ninth today, thanks to fifth-fastest time on the demanding stage, during which he encountered no technical problems at all.
“A tricky stage, with a lot of fesh-fesh,” he said, at the finish. “Today was also very bumpy, and I think our set-up with the shock absorbers was too soft: we were always going to the bottom of the bump stops. We don’t have any test roads that are quite like this. So I tried to reduce the speed a bit in order not to take any risks. But we made no mistakes, so we try to go to the end of the race now, which is our priority.”
Carlos Sainz (#304) retired just 20 kilometres from the end of the stage after hitting a rock while following in the dust of a quad bike. Unsighted by the dust, his car rolled five times: the crew emerged uninjured but with no hope of continuing their rally. The Spaniard, a Dakar winner in 2010, had previously climbed as high as fourth overall on day three – the best placing that the PEUGEOT 2008 DKR has shown on the rally so far.
“I’m very disappointed, particularly after the mechanics worked for half the night last night when we finally got to the bivouac at 3:30am,” said Sainz. “It’s always terrible to retire under any circumstances, but this is what disappoints me most.”
Cyril Despres (#322) also hit trouble but with less serious consequences, when he took off a wheel at kilometre 64 of the stage. As this was one of the rare stages where cars, bikes and trucks competed together, he was able to wait for Peugeot’s competing service truck to arrive to fix the problem. At the current time he is completing the stage, with his place in the classification to be confirmed by the organisation later tonight.
Peugeot Sport director Bruno Famin commented: “Obviously the main news today was the retirement of Carlos, following an accident in which both of the crew were thankfully uninjured. That’s just one of those things that happens in racing. Cyril made a small mistake, which means we are still waiting for him to return now, while Stéphane claimed a very honorable fifth place on the stage, which shows again that the car is competitive. We’ve had no significant technical problems and we are continuing to learn and gain experience. This is exactly what we expected from the Dakar, and we will carry on like this for as long as possible.”