Team Peugeot-Total took a clean sweep of the podium positions on the fourth stage of 2016 Dakar Rally as their veteran Stéphane Peterhansel led, Carlos Sainz and Sébastien Loeb on the time sheets.
While Loeb continues to lead the overall standings by 4 minutes 48 seconds it was time for his team-mate to take some of the limelight; Peterhansel remains in second place overall but swept the Jujuy-Jujuy loop in 3 hours 42 seconds, just 11 seconds faster than the recovering Sainz.
“The stage was quite quick with lots of straights that were flat out, and some fun technical sections as well” said Peterhansel. “It was also a stage at high altitude, where we weren’t particularly competitive last year.
“On the whole we kept everything clean with no navigational mistakes, and with a mind towards tomorrow’s stage as welll when it came to looking after the car and the tyres. We’re ready now for the second part of the marathon stage but the gaps are small.
“Today resulted in a stage win for us, but this also means that we open the road tomorrow. Sebastien is in a good place. He will start from third on the road and he’ll have our tracks to follow. But you never know how things will go during the actual race. We’re going to be driving without any information about the splits. In any case, it’s certainly going to be interesting.” he added.
While Sainz finished only 11 seconds behind Peterhansel, it could have been a stage win for the Spaniard if it had not have been for tyre issue.
“I had a left-rear puncture at the start of the stage between WP1 and WP2” said Sainz. “We lost three minutes, which we regained again by the end of the stage, without even pushing to the maximum. I’ve got just one spare wheel in the car now for tomorrow, so we need to be careful.”
Heading in to the fourth stage Loeb had set the pace but could only manage third place, 18 seconds off the pace of the fastest time of the day.
“Today’s stage wasn’t as nice as yesterday’s” said Loeb. “We had a problem with the sentinel, which went off a few times but with nobody behind us! We even stopped once to let the non-existent traffic come past…”
Nasser Al-Attiyah spoilt the party for the Peugeot team as he took the AXION X-raid Team MINI ALL4 racing Mini to fourth place ahead of the Peugeot 2008 DKR of Cyril Despres.
“I was pushing from the beginning,” said Al-Attiyah. “We were really fast in CP1, but after that we lost a lot of time in a straight line because of the bumps. We are going strong but we never know what is coming tomorrow… and there are still more days to come!
Mikko Hirvonen finished in a lowly twelfth place as he admitted how tedious the stage was, “Nothing special happened today; in fact it was quite a boring stage in a way.” said the Finn. “200k absolutely flat out in sixth gear… so I wasn’t enjoying it. When it’s fast like that over the bumps I lose a little time. In the end of that stage we had an absolutely straight 70km section. I hope it’s more technical tomorrow.”
British hope Harry Hunt dropped down to seventeenth overall as he lost time with a puncture. Stadium Super Trucks’ Robby Gordon had his best day of the rally so far as he brought his Gordini home in tenth place while WRC regular Martin Prokop finished down in 32nd place after rolling his Toyota Hilux.
In the bike class, it was Paulo Goncalves who benefited from a five minute penalty on stage winner Joan Barreda Bort, the Portuguese rider now heads the overall timesheets equally with fellow countryman Rueben Faria both on a total time of 6 hours 27 minutes.
“The stage went pretty well,” said Goncalves. “It was a long special at more than 400 kilometres with a very high average speed. There wasn’t a lot of navigation but I was in doubt at one point and I lost a few seconds.
“We arrived without any problems and everything will be ready to set off tomorrow for the second part of the marathon stage. The teamwork has been excellent: to arrive here with everything in order, in a stage like this one, is perfect.”
Ignacio Casale continues to top the Quad bikes overall times, despite only finishing the stage in fifth place while Alexis Hernadez took the stage honours. Hans Stacey dropped to second place overall as Pieter Versluis made the most of the stage to take the overall lead, finishing just 37 seconds behind stage winner Gerard de Rooy.