Peterhansel seeks breathing space in Dakar high life
Stephane Peterhansel targets a 13th Dakar title next month, describing the gruelling 2017 rally as the most intense he has faced and fearing the physical effects of racing at South America’s punishing high altitudes.
The 51-year-old Frenchman clinched his sixth win on four wheels in this year’s event to add to six motorcycle triumphs since his debut back in 1988 when the famed race was still held in Africa. But when the 39th running of the Dakar starts in Paraguay on Monday, many in the field will be happy just to negotiate the six days spent at 3,000 metres or more above sea level. “We all fear a little the time spent at altitude. I fear for the teams, the staff, mechanics,” said Peterhansel, who won the 2016 event in a Peugeot after wins in 2004, 2005 and 2007 with Mitsubishi and 2012 and 2013 victories behind the wheel of a Mini. “Last year there were cases when mechanics didn’t feel well. This is going to be the most intense Dakar we have done in South America.”
The 9,000km race will start in Paraguay, cross into Argentina, negotiate the Andes in Bolivia before returning to Argentina and a finish at Buenos Aires on January 14.
The only scheduled rest day on January 8 will be spent in the Bolivian capital of La Paz at a lung-busting 3,500m above sea level. While on the Bolivian Altiplano, five stages will be raced with a maximum altitude of 4,500m reached. “The route of the 2017 Dakar preserves the rally-raid traditions, with a physical challenge that will push the competitors into the world of extreme endurance,” said Dakar race sporting director Marc Coma, himself a five-time winner of the motorcycle title. There will be six stages of more than 400km, dune crossing and driving in sand, especially on the sections of the route still unknown to rally-raid regulars or during the all-important “Super Belen” stage, three days from the finish line in Buenos Aires. — AFP
LUQUE: A worker mans the entrance to a Dakar Rally technical checkpoint in Luque, Paraguay, Wednesday. Paraguay is one of three South American hosting the 2017 Dakar Rally with the first stage beginning today, in Asuncion. —AP