(Reuters) – Spaniard Carlos Sainz was one stage away from winning the Dakar Rally on Friday but Peugeot’s hopes of a one-two finish in Argentina disappeared after reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel hit trouble.
Sainz, father of the Renault Formula One driver of the same name, ended the penultimate 13th stage from San Juan to Cordoba with a lead of 46 minutes and 18 seconds over Toyota’s Nasser al-Attiyah.
With only 120km of timed special stage remaining around Cordoba, Sainz’s second Dakar victory looks assured in what will be a fitting farewell for Peugeot’s works team in their final appearance.
The Spaniard took no risks on Friday’s marathon 929km stage, which was dominated by al-Attiyah, who took his fourth stage win of this year’s rally. Sainz finished 19 minutes and 37 seconds behind the Qatari.
Peterhansel, a 13 times Dakar winner on bikes and cars, had started the day second overall but clipped a tree with his front left wheel on a bend that was hidden by a bump.
The impact broke a steering rod, with the support team carrying out repairs once he was out of the timed zone, and also left the Frenchman with a sprained thumb.
The delay meant he lost about an hour and fell behind al-Attiyah in the standings.
Toyota’s Dutch driver Bernhard ten Brinke retired with mechanical problems.
In the motorcycle category, Austrian KTM rider Matthias Walkner ended the day with a 22 minute lead over Argentina’s Kevin Benavides on a Honda.
Australian Toby Price, the 2016 winner, took his second successive stage win.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Greg Stutchbury)