Frenchmen Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres, both hoping to retain their titles in the Dakar Rally, stayed on top of the standings after Thursday’s 12th stage.
Peterhansel kept his commanding lead in the car category, 50 minutes, 21 seconds ahead of Giniel de Villiers of South Africa and 1:31:06 in front of Joan Roma of Spain. Roma won the stage with American Robby Gordon 4:18 behind in second. With no need to push it, Peterhansel finished in sixth place.
With two stages remaining, followed by the podium presentation on Sunday in the Chilean capital Santiago, Peterhansel knows anything can happen.
"Yes, for sure we can smell victory, but I can remember two times when I have lost the Dakar just on the last day, so we know that anything can happen," Peterhansel said. "I could make a mistake, we could have some technical problems. So, there are still two days left."
In bikes, Despres was 5:39 ahead of KTM teammate Ruben Faria of Portugal in the standings. Chile’s Francisco Lopez trails by 13:40. Frans Verhoeven of the Netherlands won the stage, 1:38 ahead of Faria.
"There are still two days left to race and, on the Dakar, you can be smiling one day and then unfortunate the next day. … So I’m saving my smile for when we reach the end of the rally," he said. "For the moment, it’s going fine."