IQUIQUE - French rally great Stephane Peterhansel boosted his hopes of a hat-trick of Dakar Rally wins as he won Tuesday's ninth stage of the race. Peterhansel guided his Mini home fastest on the 459 kilometre leg - 422km timed - from Calama to Iquique in Chile. The 48-year-old -- who if successful this year would make it six wins in the car category to equal the amount he won in the motorbike section -- shaved more than 11 minutes off overall leader Nani Roma's advantage with his win.
He is now just over 12 minutes adrift of the lead with the race finishing on Saturday. Peterhansel, who had a wretched start to the Rally but has surged back into contention, timed 4hr 17min 53sec, while Monday's stage winner, Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah, was second, 2min 17sec adrift. Roma, meanwhile, was third, over 11 minutes slower. Roma, winner of the motorcycling event in the 2004 edition and runner-up two years ago, will be keen to re-establish his authority on Wednesday. However, Peterhansel insisted that there would be no let up from him as he seeks victory. "For sure, I am in a good position because I have no pressure because I am not the leader," he said. "Now I'm trying to drive as fast as possible. I'm taking real pleasure in it now, because I have nothing to lose. At the end I'm second and it's not my goal to finish second. So I will push and we will see what happens."
Earlier, Spanish rider Marc Coma moved a step closer to a fourth Dakar Rally motorcycling crown with a stage victory. The 37-year-old brought his KTM bike home in 4hr 49min 05sec, over a minute ahead of compatriot Joan Barreda -- who was runner-up for the second successive day -- while Monday's stage winner, France's five-time overall winner Cyril Despres, was third, over five minutes adrift.
Coma leads Barreda by 40min 19sec in the overall standings while another Spaniard, Jordi Viladoms, is third but lies over 90 minutes in arrears. While Coma described the stage as being a complicated one he was delighted with the final outcome. "It was very nice and very fast at the beginning, but on the last part we found some dunes," he said. "I tried to catch Joan, because he started two minutes in front of me. When I caught up with him I tried to follow to ride together to the end. It was a good day for me." Wednesday's 10th stage is set to test all the competitors as it comprises a 631km timed section.