Polish driver Krzysztof Holowczyc took the overall lead in the Dakar Rally on Tuesday after the third stage won by Mini-driving team-mate Spaniard Nani Roma.
It was not a good day for overnight leader, six-time Dakar motorcycling champion and three time car winner France’s Stephane Peterhansel who suffered two punctures and came in over six minutes slower than Roma which saw him slip to fifth overall.
Roma timed 2hr 26min 51sec over the 208 km drive, finishing 1min 9sec ahead of Holowczyc while Qatar’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was third in his Hummer, 1min 29sec behind.
“We were fortunate to set off later on, follow the tyre tracks and see where to brake,” said 39-year-old Roma, who won the motorbike race in 2004.
“But all in all, it’s more important for us that we drove really well, rather than the stage victory,” added Roma, whose best finish in the car section was third in 2006.
Earlier France’s three-time champion Cyril Despres enjoyed a crushing victory in the 270km third stage of the motorcycling section.
Despres - who had a bad start to the race but regained some time on Monday - took the overall lead in the race as his main rival KTM team-mate and defending champion Marc Coma of Spain had an awful day finishing seventh more than 13min off the winner.
Coma was philosophical about his off day which saw him take the wrong route.
“Yesterday was my day, but today definitely wasn’t!” said Coma, who won Monday’s stage.
“After 170 km, there was a different track for the bikes and the cars. I checked the road-book and thought I was on the right track, but then I saw that wasn’t the case, because the next note was after 8 km and it wasn’t correct, so I turned round!
“16 km is a lot! So, after that, I went on the attack to try and gain back some time, but today was a difficult day, even if the scenery was spectacular... Well, in the end, I’ve lost 13 minutes.
“It’s a lot, but when you make a mistake, you shouldn’t be surprised that the gaps open up. That’s racing for you.”
Despres timed 3hr 48min 38sec to beat home Dutch rider Frans Verhoeven by 8min 37sec while Portugal’s Paulo Goncalves was third another two seconds adrift.
The 37-year-old holds an overall lead of 10min 12sec over Coma, who had gone into the stage nearly three minutes ahead of his team-mate.
Despres refused to gloat over Coma’s error.
“Over the last 50 kilometres, I couldn’t see many tyre tracks, so I wasn’t sure that Marc was up ahead,” said the Andorra-based Frenchman.
“In the end, I finished first and I’ve been told that he chose the wrong track so that’s going to be to my advantage. It’s good for my position, even if I’m never happy about other people’s setbacks.”