Peter­hansel seeks breath­ing space in Dakar high life

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -


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

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