The Dakar Rally is now back in Argentina en route to the finish at Buenos Aires, just three days away. On a tricky special stage that started at 3,600 metres above sea level, Stéphane Peterhansel was back setting top-10 stage times: the Frenchman was ninth overall, with a faultless display through the stage despite an unfavourable starting position. Cyril Despres set the 22nd-fastest time and made up places in the overall classification.
The technical nature of today’s stage once more provided a navigational challenge as well a test of driving, with crews having to pick their way through the road book despite limited visibility. With only a bit of sand at the start of the stage, the majority of the route was made up of narrow and rough gravel tracks that left little room for error. At these heights, the engines struggle to develop power in the thin air and there is a real risk of altitude sickness, making the Andean stages among the toughest of the entire rally.
After starting down the order, Stéphane Peterhansel had the worst of the road conditions. Nonetheless, he set a top-10 stage time, which crucially means that he will have a better start position tomorrow. He maintains 14th position overall tonight and will aim for a top-10 finish at the end of what has already been an action-packed event.
Notwithstanding his lack of experience, Cyril Despres followed up his ninth-fastest time yesterday with a 22nd-fastest time today, demonstrating once more that his Dakar experience in cars is growing with every kilometre, despite driving in conditions that were totally unfamiliar to him. With no problems for either PEUGEOT 2008 DKR today, the firm aim for him is to finish his first Dakar in a car, with many top competitors already having fallen by the wayside.
Stéphane Peterhansel (#302): “It was beautiful and quite tricky stage: it looked nice on the surface but there were several traps underneath. It reminded me a little bit of a WRC stage as it was so narrow. My biggest problem today was our road position: I had to work really hard to make progress from where I started, while not taking unnecessary risks. The good news is that we’re in the top 10 so we should have better conditions tomorrow: or at least less worse! On the positive side we had no real problems with the car: perhaps the set-up was not ideal, but on the whole it was fine.”
Cyril Despres: (#322): “I found it a really twisty and fast stage: everything that I’m not familiar with, basically! I know I have a lot to learn in these types of conditions and I was very happy once more to have Gilles alongside me, who was able to give plenty of advice. I actually enjoyed the stage very much: you could come and live here just to drive stages like that, basically… The main thing for me was to have a safe run today: I could see big rocks everywhere on the road and I didn’t want to make the slightest mistake. So it was a lot of fun today, but with a certain apprehension as well.”
Peugeot Sport Director Bruno Famin: “As ever, the important thing is that we have two cars at the finish of another very demanding stage. The set-up was not perfect for these conditions, which made life more difficult for the drivers, but we had no technical problems at all, which shows the level of reliability that we have already managed to achieve. We have three stages to go now, and we cannot afford to relax our efforts for one second until we get to the finish, which is our principal goal.”