Salta, Argentina (AP) — Sebastien Loeb retook the lead in the Dakar Rally when he dominated the eighth stage crossing from Bolivia into Argentina on Tuesday.
Loeb began the day less than a minute behind race leader Stephane Peterhansel but where the route was changed and the stage split at the border, because rain made swollen rivers impassable, Loeb zoomed ahead and made his fellow Frenchman look like he was driving on three wheels.
In the second part, on the run to Salta, Loeb was more than five minutes ahead of Peterhansel, but a puncture forced him to stop and he won his third stage of the race by nearly four minutes from Peterhansel, to lead the latter overall by 1 minute, 38 seconds.
Cyril Despres, the five-time motorbike champion, was more than five minutes back in third, giving Peugeot a 1-2-3 finish for the second time in the rally. That’s also how they stood in the overall.
Only Nani Roma, the 2014 champion, and Mikko Hirvonen, fourth on debut last year, were within an hour of Loeb, the rally great trying to win his first Dakar at his second attempt.
“I wanted to try to make a gap today, but I had a puncture on the last part of the stage, so I lost a few minutes to change the wheel,” Loeb said. “But it’s OK, it’s still the best time.”
In the motorbike category, Joan Barreda of Spain won his second stage of the race comfortably.
Barreda was no threat to overall leader Sam Sunderland at more than an hour behind, and was free to attack. Sunderland tracked him though to finish third, about four minutes back, and the Briton still increased his overall lead to 21 minutes over Pablo Quintanilla of Chile, who was seventh on the stage.