Buenos Aires - Peugeot driver Sébastien Loeb suffered a puncture on the penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally, all but handing a 13th crown to compatriot Stéphane Peterhansel.
Loeb won San Juan-Rio Cuarto Stage 11, his fourth stage win of the race, however Peterhansel, or Mr Dakar as he is often referred to, maintained his comfortable gap in the overall standings to win the Dakar title.
The 51-year-old, also in a Peugeot 3008 DKR, had a healthy 5 minute 32 second lead going into the final 64km timed stage to the finish in Buenos Aires and was unlikely to falter at the final hurdle.
Peterhansel maintained his lead despite an incident on Stage 10, when he collided with biker Simon Marcic. The Frenchman stayed with the biker until medical support arrived and was awarded back the time as per Dakar rules.
Third place on the podium was all but secured for Peugeot’s third driver, Cyril Despres.
Reliability and pace
Further back, the two South African-built Hiluxes of Nani Roma (Overdrive) and Giniel de Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa), were in fourth and fifth position. De Villiers was the team-mate of Nasser Al-Attiyah who won the first stage in Asunción, Paraguay, but crashed out early in the race. The South African had to fend off Orlando Terranova who was just 2 minutes and 3 seconds behind the 2009 winner.
The three Peugeots proved too strong for the Toyota Gazoo Racing team from South Africa. The local team, arguably fielding the strongest pairing in the rally, De Villiers and Al-Attiyah, had looked to be the force to be reckoned with. However, the reliability and pace of the Peugeot trio seemed to always have the extra edge.
The three Frenchmen, who led the rally at one point during the race, hardly struggled in the high-altitude sections in San Salvador and on the dunes of Bolivia.
Al-Attiyah, a two-time Dakar champion, suffered a suspension failure on stage 3 and was forced to retire. This was a major blow to the Gazoo Racing team and left De Villiers to play catch-up with the charging Peugeots.
In the bike section, 27-year-old Sam Sunderland from Britain won his first Dakar crown, leading a 1-2-3 finish for KTM.
Sutherland had built up a commanding 33 minute and 9 second lead over Matthias Walker. Spain’s Gerard Farres Guell, riding for Himoinsa, was third.