Stephane Peterhansel took the lead on the 2016 Dakar Rally on Friday, while Sebastien Loeb slipped to second after suffering two punctures and an issue with the accelerator.
Peterhansel was sensational on the sixth stage, a 542km loop around the Salar de Uyuni, completing it 17 seconds up on team-mate Carlos Sainz to ensure the Peugeot 2008DKR16 was again the fastest car, as it has been everyday so far. Yazeed Alrajhi was then third, with Loeb fourth - 8 minutes 15s off the pace after his problems - and Nasser Al-Attiyah fifth.
It means Peterhansel now leads Loeb in the overall standings by 27s, with Sainz third, 5m 28s further adrift. Al-Attiayh is then 'best of the rest' in fourth, albeit more than 15 minutes back in his Mini, with Giniel de Villers fifth and Mikko Hirvonen sixth, split by just 30s.
“I saw nobody today, just sometimes I saw dust,” said Peterhansel, the 11-time Dakar winner. “I did see Seb at the last 20 kilometres before the end. He had a puncture and I overtook him, but during all the day I was alone, trying to be completely focused on the track, because it was a really long stage.
“Since the beginning we've only had stages with tracks. There have been no dunes and no soft sand, so a lot of things can still happen and the car is still young, so we will see”.
“I had a first puncture, then I had to do the almost 80 kilometres with the accelerator blocked at full power, so I had to control it with a switch and it was really complicated to drive like that,” Loeb explained.
“Finally, I got another puncture and we had to change a second wheel. It was a complicated day. Hopefully, it will be better over the next days. For us, it was important to increase the lead as much as possible. Finally we lost the first place, but there is still a long way to go. The problem will be solved and it will be better”.
The Dakar convoy now leaves Bolivia on Saturday with 336km of timed racing set to take place before arriving in Salta, Argentina in the evening.
Salta will host the Dakar's rest day on Sunday.