Image via @XraidTeam
Image via @XraidTeam
Stéphane Peterhansel dominated Wednesday’s Special Stage 4 while Nasser Al-Attiyah closed in on Carlos Sainz despite the defending champ having an overnight penalty.
Taking to the Dakar’s longest stage of 453km of sand, gravel and tracks, Peterhansel put in an early attack to lead Special Stage 4.
The Bahrain X-Raid driver took full advantage of Al-Attiyah’s three minute time penalty handed to him late Tuesday night for failing to let Sainz pass despite hearing the warnings of the Sentinel device several times.
That dropped him from second to fifth at the start of Wednesday’s running.
Peterhansel took the win from Neomo to Al-‘Ula although it wasn’t an error free day as he briefly lost his way after taking a wrong turn.
He won by 2m26 ahead Al-Attiyah while Stage 3 winner, Sainz, was third.
“It feels good after all that trouble in the first few days, even though we had a flat tyre and got lost once. It wasn’t a flawless special, but it feels great to take the win,” said Peterhansel.
“There were more stones than expected and the final 60 kilometres were really difficult. My co-driver and I are starting to communicate more serenely and accurately, it’s getting better.
“This new Dakar is brilliant, it has all the ingredients: superb landscapes, tricky navigation and enough difficulties to make a selection. The organisers have been perfect so far.”
Sainz retains the overall lead, 3m03 up on Al-Attiyah with Peterhansel up to third.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers was sixth fastest but dropped over 18m on the leaders. He stays P7 on the overall log.
Dutchman Erik van Loon was the day’s big loser as he rolled his Toyota early in the stage before a later mechanical also cost him time.
Neither Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi nor Vladimir Vasilyev took the start after wrecking on Tuesday.
After a fantastic fourth on Tuesday, Fernando Alonso’s lack of experience over sandy terrain was evident during Wednesday’s action.
The double F1 World Champion was off the pace from start to finish, bleeding time throughout the stage.
He dropped eight minutes after the first 100km, another five after 300 and finished the 453kms 26m21 down.
However the Spaniard will be ruing his Day Two troubles, which saw him drop 2h30, as without that he would only be some 30m off the overall pace.
The KTM versus Honda battle continued in the bikes as Sam Sunderland took Wednesday’s win but Ricky Brabac remains the one to beat by 2m30 over his team-mate Kevin Benavides.
Sunderland put in a fast final 50km to beat José Ignacio Cornejo while Brabec was seventh on the day.
However, Sunderland was later hit with a five minute penalty for using excess speed! He went faster than 30kph in a speed limit zone, handing the day’s win to Cornejo.
“The first part was really fast, so it took me 220 or 240 kilometres to catch Ricky. We then took turns opening the track. I think we did a great job, it was physically and mentally exhausting,” said the Chilean rider.
“We won’t be forgetting this stage any time soon because some parts were so rocky that we thought we were going the wrong way.”
Starting dead last after injuring his shoulder in a crash on Day Three, Botswana’s Ross Branch produced a solid performance on Wednesday to finish just 1m06 shy of Sunderland.
Xavier de Soultrait also suffered a result of an earlier injury while Ivan Jakeš got off to a late start due to a mechanical while Antonio Maio, Joan Barreda and Arnold Brucy all crashed.
Taye Perry remained South Africa’s lady to beat as the Nomade Racing rider finished 62nd overall, 12m ahead of BAS Dakar rider Kirsten Landman.
Stuart Gregory, the only other South African left standing in the bikes, was 87th.
Ignacio Casale made it three wins from four stages as he romped to the victory on Wednesday in the quads, beating Giovanni Enrico by 1m24.
He extended his overall lead to 21m03 over Enrico.
In the SSVs, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López raced against Aron Domżała for the day’s win, taking it by X
Kazam’s Anton Shibalov claimed yet another win in the truck category, beating Andrey Karginov. It is, however, the latter who holds onto P1 overall, 10m43 ahead of Siarhei Viazovich.
1 Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz – Mini – 15h12m12s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel – Toyota – 15h15m15s – 3m3s
3 Stephane Peterhansel and Paulo Fiuza – Mini – 15h23m54s – 11m42s
4 Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Konstantin Zhiltsov – Toyota – 15h35m22s – 23m10s
5 Orlando Terranova and Bernardo Graue – Mini – 15h35m25s – 23m13s
6 Mathieu Serradori and Fabian Lurquin – Century – 15h39m7s – 26m55s
7 Giniel de Villiers and Alex Haro – Toyota – 15h46m52s – 34m40s
8 Bernhard ten Brinke and Tom Colsoul – Toyota – 15h56m52s – 44m40s
9 Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka – Ford – 16h21m53s – 1h9m41s
10 Yasir Seaidan and Alexy Kuzmich – Mini – 16h42m37s – 1h30m25s