Prior to Saturday’s 425km stage, Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel had led the 14-day rally by 27 minutes over Peugeot teammate Sainz. Over the first few timing sections of the 7th stage from La Paz to Uyuni, Peterhansel had cleared another 3 minutes over Sainz, running like a man possessed. Unfortunately, while trying to negotiate a pass on one of the bike class competitors, Peterhansel struck a large rock at full speed, sustaining heavy damage to the left rear of his 3008DKR Maxi buggy.
Sainz inherited the lead, then, by virtue of Peterhansel’s sidelining. Stephane’s car was stranded for over an hour and a half until assistance came from fellow Peugeot driver Cyril Despres assisted with repairs. Peterhansel finally returned to the race and finished the stage some 108 minutes down from Sainz.
Carlos ‘El Matador’ Sainz now leads the Dakar rally by over an hour from his nearest competitor, Toyota’s Nasr Al-Attiyah, while Peterhansel drops to third, just 9 minutes behind Al-Attiyah.
There’s still everything to play for in the coming days, as anything could sideline a fast driver from competition. The chips are all on the table, and everyone is all in. It’s been a rough seven days, but the next 7 will surely be rougher. Today’s stage, for example, from Uyuni to Tupiza, is the longest day of the rally, covering nearly 500 kilometers of stage. Survival is the name of the game, but you won’t survive if you aren’t fast. Good luck, rallyists. For up-to-the-minute action, follow along on Dakar.com.