Peterhansel leads while De Villiers hits trouble
San Salvador de Jujuy — Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel led a Peugeot sweep of the top-three finishing spots on the third stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday with teammate Sebastien Loeb narrowly retaining the overall lead.
Peterhansel, 51, seeking a 13th career triumph in the gruelling 9,000km endurance event, finished the San Miguel de Tucuman to San Salvador de Jujuy stage in Argentina in 4 hours 18min 17sec.
Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, was second, coming home 1min 54sec behind the Frenchman Peterhansel.
Third was nine-time world rally champion Loeb at 3min 8sec off the lead.
Loeb stays in the overall lead with a paper-thin 0.42sec advantage over Sainz and a 4.18sec gap on Peterhansel.
"It’s a really good day for Peugeot. We’ve lost, not completely but probably, two rivals in Nasser Al Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers, so it’s a little bit clearer at the front of the race," said Peterhansel, who had struggled in the first two stages, finishing seventh and 12th.
Wednesday’s stage was split into two sections with the second part over a 124km timed run seeing the competitors race at altitude hitting 5,000m for the first time in the 2017 event.
However, it was a test too far for Toyota, who are seen as Peugeot’s major rivals for the title.
Longtime stage leader Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar, the 2011 and 2015 champion who was just 28sec behind Loeb overnight, came to a halt for over an hour when he damaged a wheel on his vehicle.
Toyota teammates Giniel de Villiers, the 2005 winner, and 2004 champion Nani Roma also hit technical trouble.
Spain’s Joan Barreda won the third stage of the motorcycle event by more than 10min to take the overall lead. The Honda rider dominated the 780km stage in 4hr 22min 41sec.
Overnight leader and defending champion Toby Price of Australia was close to 23min off the pace on his KTM.