The lead has been traded back and forth on the 2013 edition of the Dakar rally-raid – and not always on the stages themselves. The first major occurrence was Carlos Sainz being retrospectively handed the Stage Two win, after his GPS problem was traced to satellite data supplied by the series organisers themselves. The win pushed ‘The Matador’ into a three minute lead over Mini’s Stéphane Peterhansel. However, his gain was short-lived as his buggy suffered electrical problems on the third day, losing him 20 minutes and dropping him to fifth in the standings. His misery was then compounded that evening when the Dakar officials decided to reverse their decision, and took away his Stage Two win.
Peterhansel had in any case hit his stride on the 243 kilometres of Stage Three, retaking the lead lost in the steward’s office with a trouble-free run through the dunes.
Sainz’s team-mater Nasser Al-Attiyah was second fastest on the third day and then blitzed the 289km of Stage Four (the longest stage so far) to win by 36 seconds from Guerlain Chicherit’s SMG buggy. This great performance moved him up to second position overall, closing in on Peterhansel who finished Stage Four in third, over a minute behind Al-Attiyah.
More major player have also dropped out of contention on these tough opening Special Stages: Krzysztof Holowczyc crashed his Mini less than 30 miles into the third stage and had to be airlifted to hospital, and Robby Gordon has had a disaster. After finishing second the previous day he rolled his Hummer on Stage Four and landed on the roof – he lost several hours and is effectively out of contention.
Dakar 2013: Positions after Stage Four
1: Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini) 9h04m29s
2: Nasser Al-Attiyah (Red Bull Buggy) +5m16s
3: Giniel de Villiers (Imperial Toyota) +33m22s
4: Leonid Novitskiy (X-Raid Mini) +33m48s
5: Nani Roma (X-Raid Mini) +39m06s