STEPHANE Peterhansel’s hopes of a 14th Dakar title suffered a potential fatal blow on Saturday when his race-leading Peugeot was hit by a suspension failure which left him stranded for an hour and 45 minutes.
The Frenchman, bidding for a third successive triumph on four wheels, came to a halt after 186km of the run from the Bolivian capital of La Paz to Uyuni.
According to his team, the damage was caused when he hit a stone as he tried to get past a motorcycle competitor.
Teammate Cyril Despres stopped to help his stricken compatriot who was leading the stage at the time of the accident.
When Peterhansel eventually resumed the stage, his other Peugeot teammate Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, had sprinted past on his way to taking the day’s honours.
Sainz finished in 4hr 49min 26sec, with the Toyotas of South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah – at 12min 05sec and 14min 19sec respectively – behind him.
Spain’s Joan Barreda, riding a Honda, claimed his third stage win on this year’s Dakar as France’s Adrien van Beveren, on a Yamaha, reclaimed the overall motorcycle lead.
Barreda finished the seventh stage with a 2min 51sec advantage over Van Beveren and 8min 02sec in front of Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, the Honda rider who had led the race overnight.
Van Beveren leads the event with a 3min 14sec advantage over Benavides while he has a 4min 45sec gap on Barreda.ah-dj/mw