With 8719 kilometres down and just 393 to go, Team Peugeot Total has almost reached the final target of bringing two cars home to the finish of the world’s toughest rally, in Buenos Aires tomorrow. Both drivers took no risks today over the 298-kilometre stage, which formed part of the longest leg of the rally: a mammoth 1024 kilometres from Termas de Rio Hondo to Rosario. Stéphane Peterhansel was seventh-fastest to maintain 11th position, while Cyril Despres was 20th-fastest to continue his recovery up the leaderboard and finish 32nd overall on the penultimate day.
As has been the case for the last two days, today’s stage was more like a conventional rally than a rally raid stage: narrow, tight and technical roads, with a clearly defined route and plenty of corners. The route ran close to the territory used by Rally Argentina, and the parallels are evident. The PEUGEOT 2008 DKR is a two-wheel drive car, which means that it is better suited to more open and faster tracks, such as those through the desert. Stéphane Peterhansel set his eighth top-10 stage time today, finding exactly the right compromise between exploring the potential of the car and ensuring a safe finish, which allows the engineers the possibility to have a complete set of race data.
Cyril Despres also enjoyed today’s fast and winding route, which took competitors all the way down the spectacular pampas of central Argentina. Growing more familiar with the car with every kilometre that passes, he has shown a lot of potential on his four-wheeled debut and the ability to learn quickly. Tomorrow’s stage is once more very fast, but it is the second-shortest of the entire event. In the past, some competitors have retired on the brief final day, so tonight Team Peugeot Total is focused on maintaining maximum concentration all the way to the finish ramp.
Stéphane Peterhansel (#302):
Today was a really nice stage but it was a typical WRC stage once again. So with two-wheel drive there was a lot of sliding around and that was a lot of fun. We lost some time but not too much; mainly it was very interesting because now we have a lot more information about the car. I thought it was maybe possible to win a stage when we were in the open desert, but that possibility passed us by. We’ve seen the areas in which we have to improve, and once again we have completed a long day with very good reliability. This is really encouraging, even though the final result is a long way from what we would have hoped.
Cyril Despres: (#322):
It was a complicated stage from the beginning; a little bit stressful. We started in a tunnel of dust: I could not see much of the road or the rocks by the side of the road: I could only see three or four other cars, which had rolled. But this is part of the experience and one thing I will certainly remember about the 2015 Dakar is the taste of dust! There’s no comparison between riding a bike here and driving a car; when I was riding I was at the front of the field with no dust: here it’s another story and another race. When you’re at the back you’re in the dust and you can’t push at all because there’s a risk that you can damage the car and damage yourself. Tomorrow the idea is not to make any mistakes and bring the car home safely.
SS13 (Rosario-Buenos Aires): Sat. 17 / 07:25am local time - 393km (SS 175km)
Results of SS12:
1. Orlando Terranova (ARG)/Bernardo Graue (ARG) Mini 3h 04m 06s
2. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +00:00:30
3. Emiliano Spataro (ARG)/Benjamin Lozada (ARG) +00:01:29
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team +00:01:37
5. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +00:01:50
7. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/J-P Cottret (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +00:04:04
20. Cyril Despres (FRA)/Gilles Picard (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +00:14:31
Overall ranking after SS12:
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Matthieu Baumel (FRA) Qatar Rally Team 40h 18m 30s
2. Giniel de Villiers (RSA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (DEU) Toyota All Speed +00:35:39
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc (POL)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Mini +01:31:51
4. Erik van Loon (NLD)/Wouter Roesegar (NLD) Mini +03:01:34
5. Vladimir Vasilyev (RUS)/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RUS) +03:12:19
6. Christian Lavieille (FRA)/Pascal Maimon (FRA) Toyota +03:15:16
7. Bernhard Ten Brinke (NLD)/Tom Colsoul (BEL) Toyota +03:41:53
8. Carlos Sousa (PRT)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) Mitsubishi +03:44:35
9. Aidyn Rakhimbayev (KAZ)/Anton Nikolaev (RUS) Mini +04:07:47
10. Ronan Chabot (FRA)/Gilles Pillot (FRA) SMG +04:41:37
11. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/J-P Cottret (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +05:18:48
32. Cyril Despres (FRA)/Gilles Picard (FRA) Team Peugeot-Total +15:36:16