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Stephane Peterhansel says his hopes of a 14th Dakar Rally victory are “slipping away” after losing more than 20 minutes on Sunday’s sixth stage.
The X-raid Mini driver got stuck while turning around to help team-mate Nani Roma, a stoppage that cost him 22 minutes and dropped him from second in the outright standings to third, 40 minutes behind Toyota’s rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Following what he described as a “rookie mistake” on last week’s second stage, Peterhansel said a second lengthy delay has left him feeling that victory is almost out of reach.
“[It was] yet another stupid mistake,” he told the official Dakar website.
“It wasn’t too bad in the first special, until I saw Nani stuck five kilometres from the finish.
“He didn’t signal for help, but after he helped me out two days ago, I felt it was my duty to rush to his aid. As a result, I got stuck in a sand basin and lost 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t a mistake, it was a real blunder.
“Victory’s slipping away after too many mistakes.”
Peterhansel added: “It starts to be complicated, because we made too many mistakes, and every time I make a mistake I lose minimum 15 minutes. Now we are [almost] 45 minutes behind Nasser, it starts to be really complicated.
“Too many mistakes, so I’m not able to be in first place.”
Peterhansel was able to recover some of the lost time thanks to impressive speed following the stoppage, but said he could have done more had it not been for a tyre-inflation issue.
“I was really pissed off after so we went on full attack, and I think we did a really good stage, except in the last 40 kilometres we had a problem with the inflate system,” he said.
“We changed tyres twice because we lost pressure. We lost six minutes.
“Between these two big problems, we had good speed.”
While Peterhansel has struggled for consistency, leader Al-Attiyah has enjoyed a mostly trouble-free run in his Toyota.
“Since the beginning he was not really fast-fast, but compared to other years he is really constant, no mistakes, and this is a good strategy,” said Peterhansel.
This year’s Dakar continues with 323 competitive kilometres in and out of the town of San Juan de Marcona on Monday.
Additional reporting by Jamie Klein and Sergio Lillo