San Salvador de Jujuy - Defending champion Stephane
Peterhansel led a Peugeot sweep of the top-three finishing spots on the third
stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday with teammate Sebastien Loeb narrowly
retaining the overall lead.
Peterhansel, 51, seeking a 13th career triumph in the
gruelling 9,000km endurance event, finished the San Miguel de Tucuman to San
Salvador de Jujuy stage in Argentina in 4 hours 18 min 17 sec.
Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, was second, coming home 1
min 54 sec behind the Frenchman Peterhansel. Third was nine-time world rally
champion Loeb at 3 min 8 sec off the lead.
Loeb stays in the overall lead with a paper-thin 0.42sec
advantage over Sainz and a 4.18sec gap on Peterhansel.
"It's a really good day for Peugeot. We've lost, not
completely but probably, two rivals in Nasser Al Attiyah and Giniel de
Villiers, so it's a little bit clearer at the front of the race," said
Peterhansel, who had struggled in the first two stages, finishing seventh and
Wednesday's stage was split into two sections with the
second part over a 124km timed run seeing the competitors race at altitude
hitting 5 000m for the first time in the 2017 event.
However, it was a test too far for Toyota, who are seen as
Peugeot's major rivals for the title.
Longtime stage leader Nasser Al Attiyah of Qatar, the 2011
and 2015 champion who was just 28 seconds behind Loeb overnight, came to a halt
for over an hour when he damaged a wheel on his vehicle.
Toyota teammates Giniel de Villiers, the 2005 winner, and
2004 champion Nani Roma also hit technical trouble on the exhausting climb.
Spain's Joan Barreda won the third stage of the motorcycle
event by more than 10 minutes to take the overall lead.
The Honda rider dominated the 780km (364km timed) stage in 4
hours 22 min 41 sec.
Overnight leader and defending champion Toby Price of
Australia was close to 23 minutes off the pace on his KTM.
"I was lucky and I did a good job. It was a really
tough stage but I kept my focus during all the stage, so I am really happy with
the work," said Barreda.
"It's still too early to talk about winning. There are
still seven thousand kilometres to go."
Britain's Sam Sunderland is second overall at 11 min 20sec
behind Barreda while Paulo Goncalves of Portugal holds third spot at 14min
Thursday's fourth stage, over 521km from San Salvador de
Jujuy to Tupiza in Bolivia will be raced to altitudes of around 3 500m.