Dakar Rally veteran Stephane Peterhansel notched up a record-equalling 50th stage win on Sunday as Spanish rider Carles Falcon was reported in a “serious condition” after crashing in Saudi Arabia.
Falcon, who made his Dakar debut in 2022, was nearing the second stage finish line when he suffered a bad accident.
“Immediately notified by another racer who was following him, the organisation dispatched a medical helicopter which took care of the injured motorcyclist in a condition considered serious. He was airlifted to Al-Duwadimi hospital,” race organiser ASO said.
Falcon, riding for the Twintrail Racing Team, was 76th after Saturday’s opening stage.
Honda’s Ignacio Cornejo took the win with a lead of 5min 59sec ahead of Luciano Benavides while Botswana’s Ross Branch remains in the overall lead.
In the top car division, Peterhansel left his rivals trailing in the dust in a treacherous 463km route through the winding dunes of the Saudi desert.
Only nine-time rally world champion Sebastien Loeb got anywhere near his French compatriot at 29sec as American rookie Seth Quintero came home third at 3min 11sec.
The 58-year-old Peterhansel scooped his half century of Dakar stage wins to equal Ari Vatanen’s tally.
“I stopped counting a long time ago, but it’s good to know I can still beat him,” Peterhansel, who has won motorsport’s toughest endurance test a record 14 times earning him the nickname ‘Mister Dakar’, said.
The result left Peterhansel’s Audi teammate Carlos Sainz in the overall lead at 8hr 49min 38sec with Saudi Arabian Yazeed Al Rajhi 1min 51sec back in second after filling fifth on on Sunday. Peterhansel is ninth.
“All in all, I’m pleased with the car. We’ll see where it goes from here, this was just the second stage,” said Sainz.
Sainz is competing in his 17th Dakar with wins in 2020, 2018 and 2010.
Loeb, runner-up to Nasser Al-Attiyah in the past two editions, sits third at 4min 17sec.
Defending champion Al-Attiyah was fourth on the day at 6min 28 driving for his new ProDrive team.
The Qatari was hindered by two punctures on Saturday’s opening stage; on Sunday, it was a broken rear suspension arm on his car that slowed him down.
“We stopped for more than ten minutes to repair. I think it’s a weak point of this car because ‘Seb’ (Loeb) broke the same arm yesterday,” said Al-Attiyah, gunning for his sixth win overall in the event.
“We’ll try to speak with the team to fix the problems. I enjoy the car a lot, even with all the problems we had today and yesterday, we’re still in the game,” he added.
Monday’s 438km run from Al-Duwamsimi to Al-Salamiya features changing terrain from dunes to jagged rocky sections.
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