Jan 8 (Reuters) - Spaniard Carlos Sainz saw his Dakar Rally lead halved on Wednesday as France’s 13-times champion Stephane Peterhansel became the fourth different stage winner in four days in the car category.
Peterhansel, known as ‘Mr Dakar’ for his success on both two wheels and four, finished the 453km stage from Neom to Al-‘Ula in his Mini nearly two and a half minutes ahead of Toyota’s defending champion Nasser al Attiyah.
Sainz, a two-times Dakar winner and father of the McLaren Formula One driver of the same name, was third over the stage in his Mini and leads the Qatari by three minutes and three seconds overall.
Al Attiyah had been handed a three-minute penalty after Tuesday’s stage for not letting Sainz through despite warnings.
The Dakar is being held entirely in Saudi Arabia this year after the last decade in South America.
Peterhansel has now won a Dakar stage on all three continents that have hosted the rally, from its origins in Africa.
“It wasn’t a flawless special, but it feels great to take the win. Leading the charge was hard and Carlos lost some time, but he did an amazing job because it didn’t take him long to get back on track,” said the Frenchman, third overall.
“My co-driver and I are starting to communicate more serenely and accurately, it’s getting better.”
Peterhansel had been due to compete with his wife Andrea, who finished fifth in 2004 under her maiden name of Mayer, as co-driver but she was ruled out on health grounds last month with Portuguese Paulo Fiuza stepping in.
Two-times Formula One champion Fernando Alonso, who lost two and a half hours on Tuesday with a broken wheel and suspension, fell further behind the leaders in his Toyota Hilux pickup.
In the motorcycle category, American Ricky Brabec retained the overall lead, two and a half minutes ahead of Argentine Kevin Benavides.
Britain’s Sam Sunderland was fastest on the stage but then collected a five-minute penalty for speeding, dropping the KTM rider to eighth with Chile’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo taking a first stage win instead for Honda.
Australia’s defending champion Toby Price was fourth overall. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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