Stephane Peterhansel, nine times a Dakar Rally winner (three times in cars and six on bikes) won his 55th stage of his Dakar career and his fourth of the 2010 edition when he took line honours at the end of special stage 13 on Friday in his BMW X3. The Frenchman and compatriot Jean-Paul Cottret finished 1m 21s ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and German Timo Gottschalk (Volkswagen Race Touareg) and 3m 45s in front of France’s Guerlain Chicherit and Swede Tina Thorner (BMW X3).
Peterhansel remains a distant fourth overall with just one stage remaining, 2h 16m 49s behind race leaders for the ninth consecutive day, Spain’s Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (Volkswagen Race Touareg), who were fourth today. Sainz had his slender lead of 5m 20s reduced to just 2m 48s on today’s 368-km stage between San Rafael and Santa Rosa de la Pampas by team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar.
American Mark Miller and his South African co-driver Ralph Pitchford, second on last year’s Dakar Rally, were fifth on Friday and remain third overall, promising Volkswagen an historic 1-2-3 in this year’s 32nd running of the Dakar. While Miller and Pitchford, who is the South African off road champion co-driver, enjoy a comfortable third place, 1h 45m 01s ahead of Peterhansel, and are 31m 48s behind Sainz, a battle royal has developed between Sainz and Al-Attiyah for the prestigious overall honours.
The two leading Volkswagens made the headlines today, fighting each other all the way. Blood pressure was high at the finish as Sainz accused Al-Attiyah of hitting him and Al-Attiyah complained that Sainz was blocking him. The gap between the two is the closest it’s been since the Spaniard assumed the race lead on stage five.
Chicherit is fifth overall, ahead of Spain’s Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi Lancer) and defending Dakar champions Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and Germany’s Dirk von Zitzewitz in the fourth Volkswagen.
In the bike category there was a maiden Dakar win for Norwegian Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM), 43s ahead of race leader Cyril Despres of France (KTM) and 2m 46s in front of defending champion Marc Coma of Spain (KTM). Despres is headed for this third Dakar victory while Ullevalseter is now 1h 04m 12s behind and 4m 22s ahead of third-placed Francisco Lopez Contardo of Chile (Aprilia).
Contardo seems safe from Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha), over 12 minutes behind in fourth with France’s David Fretigne (Yamaha) a further 35m 25s in arrears in fifth
1 Carlos Sainz (Spain) VW Race Touareg, 45h 49m 42s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) VW Race Touareg, +2 48s
3 Mark Miller (America) VW Race Touareg, +31m 48s
4 Stephane Peterhansel (France) BMW X3, +2h 16m 49s
5 Guerlain Chicherit (France) BMW X3, +4h 02m 42s
1 Cyril Despres (France) KTM, 49h 38m 44s
3 Francisco Lopez Contardo (Chile) Aprilia, +1h 08m 34s
2 Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (Norway) KTM, +1h 04m 12s
4 Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) Yamaha, +1h 20m 41s
5 David Fretigne (France) Yamaha, 1h 56m 06s