Nasser Al-Attiyah took the lead of the Dakar Rally after stage two, while stage one winner Nani Roma lost 15 minutes in a crash.
X-Raid BMW driver Roma had been quickest by two minutes on Saturday's run from Buenos Aires to Cordoba, but had a multiple roll into a gulch just six kilometers into the Cordoba to La Rioja stage on Sunday. Roma and co-driver Michel Perin were unhurt and able to rejoin and complete the stage, ending the day eighth overall.
"I misinterpreted and, in a curve, the car slipped," said Roma. "I tried to keep it on the trail but I somersaulted twice. I ended up on my wheels in a small gulch. I was able to get out of it, so I am very happy to be here in one piece. Then I had issues with the engine temperature but what matters for me is to be here."
Al-Attiyah, who had only been fourth on Saturday, overcame VW teammate Mauricio Neves and X-Raid's Guerlain Chicherit to take the stage lead in the final third of the test, ultimately winning it by 1m08sec over Chicherit.
That gave the World Rally Championship regular a 1m19s lead in the overall standings ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz – who was fourth fastest on today's stage – and Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid BMW). Al-Attiyah lost time in dust behind both Sainz and Peterhansel but was happy with his pace overall.
"We caught Stephane after 150 [kilometers] and we stayed back. We couldn't pass because the speed was the same," Al-Attiyah explained. "But when we came to a very technical part we really pushed and we caught him and we passed. After that I saw Carlos' dust and I pushed a little bit to at least make a good time for this stage."
The start of the stage had been delayed by half an hour due to poor weather conditions, and Al-Attiyah admitted that the going had been tough.
"Very, very difficult: raining, muddy, slippery, foggy – everything," he said. "But it's good that we have experience of this, and we had no mistakes."
Neves' quick time today moved him up to fifth overall behind VW's Mark Miller, but Chicherit's strong stage two performance made little difference to his position as he had lost nearly an hour yesterday when electrical problems struck near the end of stage one.
"With what happened yesterday, we had to regain ground in the special stage rankings or we would have been relegated too far back," said Chicherit. "It would have been complicated. I started 21st and passed about 10 cars.
"In the beginning, it was OK because it was wet so I could get really close but then came the dust and I had to take more risks to get closer to the ones in front of me." Stage two results:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW 4h01m55s
2. Guerlain Chicherit BMW + 1m08s
3. Mauricio Neves VW + 2m01s
4. Carlos Sainz VW + 2m41s
5. Mark Miller VW + 2m44s
6. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 3m09s
7. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 6m14s
8. Giniel de Villiers VW + 6m15s
9. Carlos Sousa Mitsubishi + 6m20s
10. Orlando Terranova Mitsubishi + 10m26sOverall standings after stage two:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah VW 6h16m39s
2. Carlos Sainz VW + 1m19s
3. Stephane Peterhansel BMW + 2m30s
4. Mark Miller VW + 5m28s
5. Mauricio Neves VW + 5m40s
6. Giniel de Villiers VW + 7m17s
7. Carlos Sousa Mitsubishi + 10m13s
8. Nani Roma BMW + 11m44s
9. Robby Gordon Hummer + 12m28s
10. Christian Lavieille Nissan + 12m50s