Stephane Peterhansel remains in a comfortable Dakar Rally lead despite losing a lot of time when his X-raid Mini became stuck in sand dunes on today's Arequipa to Nasca stage.
The dunes also caught out Peterhansel's teammate and nearest rival Nani Roma, who was therefore only able to gain just under three minutes, so remains 20 minutes behind in the overall standings heading into the final weekend.
"As soon as we crossed the first dunes, we went over a crest and behind it was a sink hole, immediately penalizing us as we got stuck," Peterhansel explained. "Time passed and the minutes seemed long. We lost at least 20 minutes, which meant that we would also lose the lead in the general standings.
"We cleared some sand and moved the car forward inch by inch to get out of there. Afterward, I have to admit I took risks to claw the time back. That was where I've attacked the most during the whole rally. In the end, we caught up with Nani several kilometers from the finish, so he must have had problems, too.
"I've been saying for a while that by getting stuck in the dunes it's possible to lose half an hour. Today we came close to a real setback."
The stage victory went to Robby Gordon, who is competing under appeal after his Hummer was ruled to be contravening the regulations for running an illegal tire re-inflation system on Wednesday. The American was 15 minutes quicker than second-fastest man Leonid Novitskiy's Mini, though he remains fourth overall behind Giniel de Villiers' Toyota. With the rally win now out of sight, Gordon said his priority was just to prove a point to his rivals.
"Minis are for girls, because we beat them by 20 minutes. It was a great stage, with big dunes and the car's fast," he said.
Gordon added: "We schooled these boys. I'm pissed. I'm pissed at Stephane and I'm pissed at Nani for challenging my character about being a cheater – and today I kicked their asses. I'm going to prove something every day for the rest of the rally. We're going to win every special from here home."
Leading positions after stage 12:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 11h19m04s
2. Nani Roma Mini + 20m00s
3. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 1h06m40s
4. Robby Gordon Hummer + 1h44m04s
5. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 2h00m01s
6. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 3h52m06s
7. Bernhard Ten Brinke Mitsubishi + 4h14m24s
8. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 4h18m21s
9. Ricardo Leal dos Santos Mini + 4h51m05s
10. Duncan Vos Toyota + 6h19m48s