Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot) smashed the opposition at the end of a frantic stage in the car category. He rose above the difficulties and capitalised on the misadventures of his direct rivals to assume a very comfortable lead in the classification of the 38th Dakar. As the day draws to a close in La Rioja, it is hard to see who could possibly deny him a twelfth victory in Rosario. Cyril Despres, his teammate, was the only driver who managed to keep up with the Peter phenomenon. Al-Attiyah (Mini), Hirvonen (Mini), Sainz (Peugeot) and Loeb, who came in fifth, were hit by mechanical problems or got stuck in the sand. The motorcycle race saw Štefan Svitko (KTM) claim his first scalp at the Dakar, but leader Toby Price (KTM) still enjoys a margin of over 28 minutes over the Slovakian rider in the general classification.
Today’s stage 10 quickly turned the race on its head (no pun intended). The Mini armada was rattled less than 5 minutes after the start, as Nasser Al-Attiyah and Eric van Loon did barrel rolls less than 10 km into the timed section.
Relieved of what had now become a phantom menace, Stéphane Peterhansel was free to face teammate Carlos Sainz in an awe-inspiring clash of titans. However, it soon became clear that this stage had Mister Dakar’s name written all over it…
Like several others, they both lost time looking for the beacon at the first waypoint, but Sainz still seemed to have the upper hand despite a flat tyre. Yet nothing could stand in the way of Peterhansel’s raw speed. The Frenchman was about to produce a performance out of this world. The gap ballooned to 5′52″ at km 111 and 20 minutes at CP3 (km 174), just after the first dune sector.
Things only got worse for poor Sainz, as he got stuck in sand at the start of the second timed section and, a hundred kilometres later, a strut between the engine and the gearbox bailed out on him. There was nothing left in the way of Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. At the finish, Peter’s teammate Cyril Despres was happy to concede “only” 5′40″ to the stage winner. Others lost far more. Vasilyev (Toyota) conceded 12′56″, Nani Roma (Mini) 14′33″ and fifth-placed Sébastien Loeb 17′40″. The nine-time world champion did a barrel roll, suffered two flat tyres and got stuck in the sand once, but it was a solid performance that catapulted him back into the top 10 overall.
Stéphane Peterhansel, meanwhile, settled into a very comfortable lead, with a buffer of one hour over Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini). Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) moved up to third place, 1 h 12′ behind the Frenchman, while Hirvonen (Mini) climbed to fourth, 1 h 23′ back. Cyril Despres (Peugeot) now sits in fifth position, 1 h 50′ behind his team leader, but he is still 37′36″ away from the bottom step of the podium.
Slovak Štefan Svitko took his maiden win at the Dakar in the motorcycle category. The 10th stage did little to change the top of the classification. Leader Toby Price (KTM) finished third today, limiting his losses to just 5′47″.
Svitko, who is participating in the rally for the seventh time, earned bragging rights by claiming one of the toughest stages in the 2016 edition. He managed to put 2′54″ into Kevin Benavides (Honda) and 5′47″ into Toby Price (KTM), today’s rivals, in just over 4 hours of racing.
Benavides stuck to his “companions” and took a huge leap forward, gaining 4′49″ on fourth-placed Antoine Méo and 7′01″ on fifth-placed Pablo Quintanilla. Meanwhile, Paulo Gonçalves worked to defend his third place overall by taking time on Chile’s Quintanilla.
Toby Price (KTM) now holds a lead of 23′12″ over Štefan Svitko (KTM). The Aussie will have to focus on defending this comfortable margin in the last few stages if he wants to take the top step of the podium in Rosario.
The quad race went to South African Brian Baragwanath, with the Patronelli Bros. in second and third place. Marcos retained the overall lead with 1′32″ on his brother Alejandro, while fellow Argentinian Jeremías González Ferioli holds the third place, 1 h 34′ back.
Gerard de Rooy claimed a new victory in the truck category and opened a chasm in the general classification, where he leads Argentinian Federico Villagra by 1 h 32′ and fellow Dutchman Ton van Genugten by 2 h 16′ —a provisional 1-2-3 for Iveco.