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Thirteen-time Dakar Rally winner Stephane Peterhansel says electrical problems led to the “rookie error” that cost him the best part of 20 minutes on the second stage in Peru.
Peterhansel was left stranded on a dune after being distracted by electrical gremlins that affected his Mini Buggy’s intercom and air-conditioning.
The costly stoppage left him 13th in the overall standings after starting the day in seventh, and he is now trailing leader Giniel de Villiers by 13m55s.
Peterhansel says his error would have been significantly worse had team-mate Cyril Despres not intervened to help the Mini driver get his rally back underway.
“We were caught in a very, very deep dune and I think that if Cyril hadn’t come to help us, maybe we would still be there,” Peterhansel said.
“We were a little distracted by some electric problems with the helmets, the air-conditioning, a few things that didn’t work anymore in the car.
“Maybe I was a little less concentrated on the driving while trying to repair these problems, and I was caught by this dune being a little soft.
“We stayed there a lot of time. It was in the dunes descending towards sea level, which are generally very soft.
“It was a rookie error.”
Despres, pictured below, is currently ninth in the standings, and said he had no problem stopping to aid Peterhansel even though it cost him time.
“Everything was fine until we found Stephane on a small dune,” he told Autosport.
“We stopped a few minutes to help him get out of the sand.
“This is normal for me, because if the team has been good in recent years, it is because there is a very, very good team spirit.
“I do not know how much [time] we have lost, but the most important thing is that we were in the rhythm of the [pacesetters].
“We can say that we are happy with the day.”
Peterhansel pointed to his own recovery drive, gaining time on seven-time World Rally champion and stage two winner Sebastien Loeb, as evidence he can recover.
“In fact the performance of the car was good, I was pleased with the engine and the chassis, but unfortunately we were caught [out],” Peterhansel said.
“When we restarted, Sebastien was five or six minutes ahead of us and we caught him at the end, so the speed is there.
“It’s a shame as it was a good occasion. We started seventh this morning, we went well, there was no bikes around us, we knew that it would not be easy for the guys ahead on the road with the navigation.
“But it’s not so bad, thinking of when we were in this dune. Last year, we were leading by 30 minutes after the Peruvian stages, so we can come back.
“It’s not very good to lose time so quickly, but it’s not finished yet.”