Bengaluru, January 10: Rally legend Sebastien Loeb claimed his first stage win of the 2018 Dakar as Peugeot swept the podium in San Juan de Marcona, while defending champion Stephane Peterhansel extended his overall lead to near seven minutes.
Loeb finished 1minm 35sec ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz and over three minutes in front of Peterhansel, who remains the overall leader with a near seven-minute advantage over fellow Peugeot driver and compatriot Loeb.
Two-time champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah, who is one of the title favourites this time had a bad day in office as he had two flat tyres and got stuck in the sand for more than 20 minutes on two occasions.
The Toyota Gazoo driver finished 11th in stage and dropped them from third to fourth in overall standings.
Meanwhile, it was curtains for former Chelsea and Tottenham football manager Andre Villas-Boas' whose Dakar debut ended in the fourth stage following a crash.
Loeb, for whom, it would be his last Dakar Rally with Puegot likely to pull out of the FIA Championship next season was extremely delighted to notch up his first stage win in the 40th edition of the most gruelling off-road races.
"I'm not going to gain time by losing stages!" said a delighted Loeb.
🎙 @SebastienLoeb : « For me, it’s a little bit of a case of now or never if I want to win the Dakar. Last year, we saw that we had the capability of winning it. That’s a source of motivation. » #WeLoveDust pic.twitter.com/sSMX6rINri— Peugeot Sport (@peugeotsport) January 4, 2018
"It was a very good day especially in a very difficult stage, with the dunes and the navigation needed. We're not complaining!," the nine-time World Rally Championship winner added.
Al Attiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel began the day 7min 43sec off the outright lead in their latest generation Toyota Hilux, but lost plenty of time and are now 58min 48sec off the overall lead.
"It was a very bad day for us. Okay, we are here and we finished but we lost a lot of time. We had two flat tyres and then we pushed hard and then we got stuck twice. The tyres were not the problem, but the time was lost when we got stuck," rued Al Attiyah, the champion of 2011 and 2015.
The action now shifts to the fifth stage as the route heads inland from the Pacific Coast to Peru's second city of Arequipa in the Andes mountain range.
The drivers will tackle a competitive section of 268km in the sandy wastelands around San Juan de Marcona before a long road section, in a gruelling day's route of 666km, begins a steady climb from the coast at Camana to Arequipa, overlooked to the north and east by the towering volcanic peaks of Ampato, Chachani and Misti.
(With Agency and Red Bull Media inputs)