Audi’s Stéphane Peterhansel secured his first stage win of this year’s Dakar Rally, while Nasser Al-Attiyah edged closer to the overall victory.
The 14-time event winner completed the Wadi Ad-Dawasir-Bisha test just over two minutes clear of his team-mate Carlos Sainz, with Orlando Terranova third quickest for Bahrain Raid Xtreme.
Peterhansel’s stage victory is the 49th in his career and moves him to within one win of Ari Vatanen’s all-time record for stage wins of 50.
Meanwhile, Al-Attiyah consolidated his lead in the hunt for overall victory by only dropping 1m25s to main rival Sébastien Loeb.
The picturesque 233-mile stage was one of the fastest on this year’s Dakar, meaning the intervals between the leading crews was always going to be short. The nature of the stage, primarily sandy tracks with precious few dunes to negotiate, also meant that there would be no room for navigational or mechanical misfortune.
From the off, it was an Audi affair with Sainz taking an early eight-second lead from Peterhansel at the opening waypoint after 26 miles. That margin was reduced by a second at the next time control before Peterhansel moved ahead at the third waypoint by 14s.
Gradually, Peterhansel extended his lead at the top of the standings, first by another nine seconds and then to over a minute as the 14-time Dakar winner made the most of his starting position of eighth on the road.
Despite starting second on the road, Toyota’s Henk Lategan was again impressive during the stage and kept in touch with the Audis right up until the halfway point.
The triple South African Cross-Country Rally champion was just under a minute adrift of Peterhansel after 105 miles and put up a fight against Sainz in the closing segments before fading in the final section.
He ended up fourth on the stage, behind the leading BRX entry of Terranova and navigator Dani Oliveras Carreras.
Loeb didn’t quite have the pace of the Audis in front of him but still managed to take some time out Al-Attiyah thanks to a late charge in his BRX Hunter.
However, Loeb will have to rely on misfortune for Al-Attiyah in the final two stages of the event if he is to take his first overall Dakar victory on Friday.
With just Al-Attiyah to focus on, Loeb and navigator Fabian Lurquin trailed their Toyota rival by 13s at the first waypoint before reversing the deficit to over half a minute after 79 miles.
Loeb then lost around three minutes in the second half of the stage and was almost tied on time with Al-Attiyah at the sixth time control.
A big effort in the closing 72 miles allowed Loeb to end up fifth, just 14s behind Lategan.
After mechanical problems robbed him of a potential podium position earlier in the week, Overdrive Racing’s Lucio Alvarez and Armand Monleon set the eighth quickest time, finishing just under seven-and-a-half minutes behind Peterhansel and four seconds clear of the SRT Racing Century of Matthieu Serradori.
Al-Attiyah’s overall lead remains comfortable but Loeb and Lurquin’s efforts have brought that gap down to 32 minutes with two stages left to run.
Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr still occupy the final step on the podium in their Toyota Hilux T1+, while Terranova take a clear fourth.
X-raid Mini’s Kuba Przygónski and Timo Gottschalk moved up to fifth overall, ahead of Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy after putting in a superb stage performance to finish sixth.
A loop around Bisha and the final push towards Jeddah is all that is left on this year’s edition of the Dakar.
Stage 10 (Wadi Ad-Dawasir – Bisha) result
1 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (Audi) 2h52m43s
2 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Audi) +2m06s
3 Orlando Terranova/Dani Oliveras Carreras (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +3m59s
4 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +4m11s
5 Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +4m25s
6 Kuba Przygónski/Timo Gottschalk (X-raid Mini JCW) +5m48s
7 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +5m50s
8 Lucio Alvarez/Armand Monleon (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +7m27s
9 Matthieu Serradori/Loïc Minaudier (SRT Racing Century) +7m31s
10 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +7m54s
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota) 33h13m37s
2 Loeb/Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +32m40s
3 Al Rajhi/Orr (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +55m48s
4 Terranova/Oliveras Carreras (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +1h29m18s
5 Przygónski/Gottschalk (X-raid Mini JCW) +1h41m02s
6 Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +1h45m42s
7 Vladimir Vasilyev/Oleg Uperenko (VRT Team BMW) +1h49m36s
8 Sebastian Halpern/Bernardo Graue (X-raid Mini JCW) +2h13m21s
9 Serradori/Minaudier (SRT Racing Century) +2h30m23s
10 Mattias Esktröm/Emil Bergkvist (Audi) +2h42m46s
Quintero levels stage win record as Baciuška claims first SSV win
Seth Quintero equalled Pierre Lartigue’s long-standing record for number of stage wins in a single Dakar with his 10th victory of the rally.
Lartigue, who set the record in 1994 en route to his first of three Dakar victories in a row, achieved this feat in the main car category, but Quintero doing so in the ultra-competitive T3 Lightweight Prototype category demonstrated the Californian’s sheer speed throughout.
Quintero had his work cut out though on stage 10, as Cristina Gutierréz again produced a superb performance to finish up just 2m22s behind her Red Bull Off-Road team-mate in second.
Quintero will look to break Lartigue’s 28-year record in Thursday’s loop stage around Bisha.
Sebastian Eriksson was third quickest and the best of the EKS South Racing Can-Ams, albeit nearly 10 minutes off the fastest time.
Rally leader Francisco Lopez Contardo coughed up over 23 minutes to Eriksson but remains almost certain of victory on Friday; the Chilean heads into the final two stages with a 55m56s advantage.
In the side-by-side class, occasional World Rallycross Championship driver Rokas Baciuška claimed his first Dakar stage win for the South Racing team, as Austin Jones consolidated his own overall lead out front.
Baciuška showed great speed all stage and was never outside of the top three positions having started seventh on the road. He took the lead at the fifth waypoint and extended his margin over Aron Domzala to 1m19s.
Gerard Farres Guell was third on the stage, 2m08s behind Baciuška, with Michał Glczał over a minute further back. Jones had a similar deficit in fifth but remains nearly 12 minutes clear of Farres Guell heading into the Bisha loop.