Stephane Peterhansel won the 12th stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday and emerged as the overall leader from Nani Roma, a day after Mini had instructed its drivers to hold positions and not take any risks.
The compliant Frenchman completed the penultimate 350-kilometre course from El Salvador through the Copiapo dunes to La Serena in 3 hours and 38 minutes, over three minutes ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah and nearly six minutes ahead of Roma, to claim his fourth stage victory.
“I don’t know what happened but the speed was not very good for the guys in front,” Peterhansel said. “We overtook Nani – I think he had a puncture because he was really slow. I even did a U-turn to ask Nani if he wanted to go in front in the dunes, but he didn’t want to. So I opened on the dunes and finished very calmly.
“The strategy hasn’t changed. The instructions will perhaps be reissued tonight and we will listen to them,” he added.
Along with the puncture just 20km into the stage, Roma’s run was also affected after he got stuck in the sands, eroding the Spaniard’s five minute lead at the start of the day. Both Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah had offered the position back but Roma refused to accept the gesture.
“The race is open. There’s a 20s gap, so it’s open. Tomorrow we’ll see what happens,” he said. “It’s what I was saying yesterday. I said there were no orders, and today you’ve seen that. Right now we are here, we are alive and we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
The battle for ultimate victory is separated by just 26 seconds with Saturday’s short 157km final stage remaining.
Al-Attiyah had taken the early lead but then made a navigational error, awarding Peterhansel the advantage, although his grip on the podium remains strong.
Giniel de Villiers came in fourth in the Toyota, to cement his fourth place in the overall rankings.
“Was behind Roma in his dust for long. Then tricky dunes to cross. Hilux ran well today!” he said.
Orlando Terranova finished ninth, and is a little under six minutes behind de Villiers in fifth place.
Hummer driver Robby Gordon retired due to fuel system issues.
“Despite hectic efforts from his service crew to get the car ready for the stage, they were forced to admit defeat before the action started,” reported Max Rally.
Saturday’s cacti-strewn rocky course will take competitors from La Serena to the finish line in Valparaiso.
Leading stage 12 times: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Stephane Peterhansel X-raid Mini 3h38m19s 2. Nasser Al-Attiyah X-raid Mini +3m38s 3. Nani Roma X-raid Mini +5m58s 4. Giniel de Villiers Imperial Toyota +10m48s 5. Krzysztof Holowczyc X-raid Mini +18m06s 6. Ronan Chabot SMG Buggy +18m24s 7. Boris Garafulic X-raid Mini +25m26s 8. Lucio Alvarez Ford +26m15s 9. Orlando Terranova X-raid Mini +29m50s 10. Christian Lavieille Haval +31m09s Leading overall positions after stage 12: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Stephane Peterhansel X-raid Mini 48h45m45s 2. Nani Roma X-raid Mini +26s 3. Nasser Al-Attiyah X-raid Mini +54m07s 4. Giniel de Villiers Imperial Toyota +1h21m13s 5. Orlando Terranova X-raid Mini +1h27m57s 6. Krzysztof Holowczyc X-raid Mini +3h57m25s 7. Marek Dabrowski Orlen Toyota +5h26m09s 8. Christian Lavieille Haval +5h34m59s 9. Martin Kaczmarski X-raid Mini +6h55m33s 10. Vladimir Vasilyev X-raid Mini +7h00m59s