Peterhansel takes his first stage win

By: Valentin Khorounzhiy

Reigning Dakar Rally champion Stephane Peterhansel took his first stage win in the 2017 edition on Wednesday, as Nasser Al-Attiyah hit trouble. Al-Attiyah headed the pack for much of the stage and looked set to wrest the overall lead away from Sebastien Loeb at the day’s end, only for his Toyota Hilux to sustain significant damage, forcing him to stop.After the first two days were run close to sea level, Wednesday’s Argentina-based San Miguel de Tucuman – Jujuy test featured a major spike in altitude ahead of the rally’s arrival in Bolivia.

The timed stage was split into two sections, a 240km opener and a 124km follow-up, linked by a neutralised road section where the cars climbed more than 5000m above sea level.

Loeb had entered the day with a 28-second lead over Al-Attiyah, but his advantage was gone in no time, the Qatari making up four minutes during the navigation-heavy opening kilometres.

Through the remainder of the first timed section, Al-Attiyah was instead challenged by Peterhansel, but managed to keep the Frenchman at bay, entering the neutralised zone with a two-minute advantage.

But his charge came to an end soon after he resumed timed running, Al-Attiyah badly damaging a wheel off-piste and grinding to a halt. He remained stationary for around an hour before resuming, only to stop again shortly thereafte

With the Qatari stranded, Peterhansel eased to his first stage victory of the rally, with Sainz and Loeb making up a Peugeot 1-2-3.

In the general classification, the order is reversed, Loeb heading Sainz by 42 seconds, with Peterhansel four minutes adrift.

X-Raid Mini’s Mikko Hirvonen had run within the top three for much of the stage, but eventually dropped back to fourth. The Finn now sits as the best of the rest behind Peugeots in the main classification, trailing Loeb by 9m38s.

Al-Attiyah’s dramas were far from the only bad news of the day for Toyota, as Nani Roma, Giniel de Villiers and privateer Erik van Loon all stopped in the second part of the stage.

Of the trio, Roma came off best, losing only a few minutes to end up fifth overall, just ahead of X-Raid Mini driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi and the fourth factory Peugeot of Cyril Despres.

De Villiers, meanwhile, has dropped to 35 minutes off the lead as a result of his stoppage, and is now outside the top 10.

Cars standings after Stage 3:

Pos. Driver/Navigator Car Time/Gap
1  Sebastien Loeb

 Daniel Elena

Peugeot 6h54m56s
2  Carlos Sainz

 Lucas Cruz

Peugeot +42s
3  Stephane Peterhansel

 Jean-Paul Cottret

Peugeot +4m18s
4  Mikko Hirvonen

 Michel Perin

Mini +9m38s
5  Nani Roma

 Alex Haro

Toyota +13m04s
6  Yazeed Al-Rajhi

 Timo Gottschalk

Mini +15m17s
7  Cyril Despres

 David Castera

Peugeot +15m25s
8  Orlando Terranova

 Andreas Schulz

Mini +21m29s
9  Kuba Przygonski

 Tom Colsoul

Mini +27m37s
10  Martin Prokop

 Ilka Minor