Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) wasted no time in reminding Europe’s offroaders that he’s still the man to beat on his return to competitive racing at Baja Poland. He took control of the contest before the midway point and the 13-time Dakar Rally winner went on to claim the chequered flag behind the wheel of his MINI John Cooper Works Rally.
Peterhansel quickly answered any questions about how he would cope with eight months away from racing and how he would adapt to having a new co-driver. It was soon evident that Monsieur Dakar still had plenty of speed and the pace notes of Edouard Boulanger (FRA) had the duo on the path to success.
“Getting a win in our first rally together is a great start. This has been one of the most difficult rallies I have ever competed in. We are used to desert conditions, and here we struggled with water and mud.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
Following 444 kilometres of timed racing spread over seven special stages, the final winning margin of French pair Peterhansel and Boulanger stood at over 12 minutes. They were able to celebrate on Sunday thanks in large part to staying out of trouble on the previous day when torrential rain had seen a number of their rivals fall away as track conditions worsened.
Clogged filters and the threat of engine failure forced Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) to retire during the third special stage. Stage three also saw the chances of Kuba Przygoński (POL) winning his home race suffer a blow as he lost a wheel and spent over 40 minutes on repairs.
“I was very surprised that we finished the third stage in first place, especially since I wasn’t pushing hard. I saw the crews stopping. We didn’t have it easy either due to problems with the car.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
With three-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah out of the race and Przygoński left to target stage wins, Peterhansel used all his experience to bring home the victory. The reigning FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies champion can now turn his attention to next month’s Rally of Andalusia as preparations continue ahead of the 2021 Dakar in Saudi Arabia.
Baja Poland – Top 5
1. S. Peterhansel (FRA) / E. Boulanger (FRA) MINI 5h52m20s
2. B. Ten Brinke (HOL) / T. Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +12m48s
3. M. Maluszynski (POL) / J. Maluszynska (POL) MINI +23m04s
4. A. Domzala (POL) / S. Gospodarczyk (POL) Can-Am +24:42
5. J. Przygonski (POL) / T. Gottschalk (GER) Toyota +35:52
Image: Red Bull Content Pool