Stephane Peterhansel will take a substantial advantage of more than half an hour into Bolivia after winning the final Peru stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday.
The Peugeot Sport driver, eyeing up a fourteenth victory in the Dakar Rally and a third in a row after previous triumphs in 2016 and 2017, ended the 266-kilometre stage between San Juan de Marcona and Arequipa four minutes and fifty-two seconds clear of Bernhard ten Brinke.
But there was disappointment for stage four winner Sebastien Loeb, who lost three hours within kilometres of the start of the stage after requiring outside assistance to resume, but with co-driver Daniel Elena in pain due to a tailbone injury, the duo withdrew from the rally and headed straight to the bivouac to get Elena some medical attention.
The field were wildly spread due to the tough nature of the stage, and Giniel de Villiers finished third, twelve minutes and forty-seven seconds back on Peterhansel, while Carlos Sainz Sr. was fourth, eighteen minutes and ten seconds down on his team-mate.
The Spaniard remains Peterhansel’s closest challenger overall, but is thirty-one minutes and sixteen seconds back on the Frenchman, while ten Brinke is one hour, fifteen minutes and sixteen seconds down in third, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mates Nasser Al-Attiyah and de Villiers.
Al-Attiyah lost twenty-four minutes and thirty-three seconds on the day, but was five seconds faster than the leading X-Raid Mini of Orlando Terranova, while Khalid Al Qassimi was seventh ahead of Patrick Sireyjol, Cyril Despres and Jakub Przygoński.
Just thirty-eight of the original ninety-one cars remain in the rally, with the Despres/David Castella Peugeot bringing up the rear, forty-one hours, twenty-seven minutes and fifty-eight seconds off the pace.
Two days after losing significant time in the Peruvian sand dunes, Spaniard Joan Barreda claimed the stage win on Wednesday, and moved back into contention for the Dakar victory.
Whilst Adrien van Beveren retains the overall lead, the Yamaha racer finished fifth on the day and lost fourteen minutes and thirty-five seconds to the Monster Energy Honda Team racer, with Barreda moving up to fourth, just seven minutes and thirty-three seconds adrift.
Matthias Walkner was Barreda’s closest challenger on Wednesday, but even the Austrian KTM racer was ten minutes and twenty-six seconds back, while Kevin Benavides ended third, twelve minutes and twenty seconds behind.
Benavides did cut the advantage of van Beveren to just one minute at the head of the field, while Walkner is third a further fourteen seconds down, with Barreda fourth ahead of Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait.
Dakar Rally rookie Nicolas Cavigliasso took the stage win on Wednesday, but Ignacio Casale remains in control of the class, forty minutes and thirteen seconds ahead of closest rival Alexis Hernandez.
But the biggest story of the day was the retirement of defending champion Sergey Karyakin, who was forced to call it a day after crashing and suffering a broken arm forty-four kilometres into the stage.
Cavigliasso ended the day one minute and twenty-three seconds ahead of Casale, with Hernandez third was six minutes and thirty-five seconds behind in third as Yamaha filled the top six places on the day, with Giovanni Enrico, Marcelo Medeiros and Pablo Copetti fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
Eduard Nikolaev continued to hold his advantage at the head of the trucks class as the Russian Kamaz driver took the stage five victory on Wednesday, six minutes and twenty-three seconds clear of Maz driver Siarhei Viazovich.
The stage win, his third in four days, extended his advantage to nearly one hour in the overall standings, with Federico Villagra now fifty-eight minutes and five seconds adrift after losing twenty-one minutes and ten seconds on the day.
Ton van Genugten finished third on the day, twelve minutes and fifty-seven seconds down on Nikolaev, with Dmitry Sotnikov fourth ahead of Villagra and Martin Kolomý.
Reinaldo Varela took his second stage win of the week on Wednesday to take over the lead of the UTV class, with the Brazilian ending fifteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds clear of main rival Juan Uribe Ramos to give himself a three minute and eight second advantage over the Peruvian overall.
José Peña Campos was third fastest on the day but was thirty-seven minutes and fifty-five seconds back, while Claudio Fournier was fourth ahead of Anibal Aliaga.