X-RAID'S PETERHANSEL CLAIMS 54TH DAKAR STAGE VICTORY AND CLIMBS ABOVE CHICHERIT INTO FOURTH OVERALL
* Chicherit slips to fifth position; Novitskiy loses top 10 place
* Carlos Sainz maintains overall rally lead into Copiapo
COPIAPO (Chile): Team X-raid GmbH's Stephane
Peterhansel managed to overtake team-mate Guerlain Chicherit in the overall standings of the 2010 Dakar Rally, after the ninth 472km special stage between Antofagasta and Copiapo in Chile on Sunday.
The Frenchman and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret recorded the fastest time to move into fourth position at the expense of Chicherit and Tina Thorner, who led the stage early on before collecting a puncture.
Peterhansel's 54th Dakar stage win and his 21st in a car means that he stays ahead of Russia's Vladimir Tchaguine in the Dakar 'hall of fame' for the competitor with the most stage wins in the 32-year history of the world's most famous off-road rally.
"This was a very difficult stage and we had to drive so carefully on the rocks to avoid problems," said Peterhansel. "There was also a lot of navigation. The dunes at the end were not easy to pass, especially because we did not stop to deflate the tyres. We know that we are too far back to take the win, but it is nice to win the special stage and we did the best we could."
Russia's Leonid Novitskiy and German co-driver Andreas Schulz had been running in 10th place on the stage through the 365km checkpoint, but were delayed over the next kilometres and lost their place in the top 10. They finished the stage in 15th place. Spaniard Carlos Sainz extended his lead to 14m 35s in the overall standings after setting the second quickest time.
Today's stage featured a balance of fast and rocky terrain and a section of around 90km in sand and dunes at the finish. Seventy-eight cars, in a surviving field of 224 vehicles, were permitted to the start the special, with Peterhansel, Chicherit and Novitskiy starting the section in second, fifth and 12th places on the road.
Chicherit was running as the fastest driver through the checkpoints at 48km and 153km, with Peterhansel and Novitskiy holding fifth and 18th early in the stage. Peterhansel managed to avoid trouble over the subsequent kilometres and reached the 199km point as the fastest driver on the day. The Frenchman was shaowed by Gordon, De Villiers and Sainz, but Chicherit had slipped to seventh after losing around five minutes with a rear puncture. Novitskiy was 14th.
The virtual stage lead had changed again by the time the leading cars reached 245km and Miller hit the front, with Peterhansel and Chicherit in fifth and seventh places. De Villiers edged into the stage lead through the 304km and 355km checks and was running 21 seconds in front of Peterhansel through 396km. Chicherit and Novitskiy were holding seventh and 10th positions.
Peterhansel managed to finish the special in front of De Villiers through the closing kilometres to seal his 54th Dakar Rally stage win. Chicherit finished the stage in eighth, but Novitskiy was delayed by over an hour and completed the special in 15th place.
Tomorrow (Monday) crews will tackle the 10th special between Copiapo and La Serena. The stage starts from the bivouac and heads south for 338km, with a 209km liaison bringing teams into La Serena. This is the last special in the Atacama desert and event officials reckon that this could well be the last of the very difficult technical stages in this year's event.
La Serena is a commune in the Elqui Province and capital of the Coquimbo region. It is the fourth largest conurbation in Chile.