NAZCA, Peru -- Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel was back in front of the Dakar Rally in the Peruvian dunes on Monday, a day after officials scratched his stage two win and overall lead.
Peterhansel finished third on the third stage from Pisco to Nazca and it was good enough to lead overall from stage winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari started the day seventh and rose to second by cutting four minutes off Peterhansel's lead to trail by 6 minutes, 33 seconds.
The Frenchman lost his stage win from Sunday after Carlos Sainz filed a complaint. Race officials agreed to deduct the time Sainz lost looking for waypoints with a malfunctioning GPS. From more than 16 minutes down, Sainz ended up five minutes in front of Peterhansel with a second straight stage win.
But on Monday Sainz lost it all again as electrical troubles kept cutting out his engine, costing him half an hour. He finished 14th on the stage and dropped to fifth overall, 21:16 down.
Meanwhile, defending motorbike champ Cyril Despres of France took advantage of the caution shown by the leaders to blaze into the overall lead.
Despite Sainz's problems, Al-Attiyah kept their buggy team's results coming with the stage win, the 15th of his Dakar career. Robby Gordon of the United States was second in his Hummer, 1:18 behind, followed by Peterhansel.
Lucio Alvarez of Argentina was fourth to rise to third overall, 18:11 off the pace, and Leonid Novitskiy of Russia was fourth at 21:10, followed by Sainz and Giniel de Villiers, who fell from third to sixth. Nani Roma of Spain, the runner-up last year, improved from 15th to seventh, but lost three more minutes to be nearly 33 minutes behind.
While Peterhansel, Novitskiy and Roma were keeping the Minis' challenge alive, they lost teammate Krzysztof Holowczyc when the Pole jumped a dune 39 kilometers in and landed badly enough to hurt his back and ribs. He was taken to hospital. Co-driver Felipe Palmeiro was unhurt.
Caution cost the motorbike trailblazers Joan Barreda, Ruben Faria, Juan Pedrero and Matt Fish. While they were careful not to get lost and cruised through waypoints, riders behind them following in their tracks showed no such hesitancy and raced at up to twice the leaders' speeds.
Francisco Lopez of Chile won the stage, Paulo Goncalves was second and Despres third, good enough to lift him from 12th to the overall lead by 2:51 over Lopez and 4:59 over Pal Anders Ullevalseter.
Barreda fell from first to 18th, Faria from second to 11th, Pedero from third to 23rd and Fish from sixth to 31st.
The fourth stage on Tuesday from Nazca to Arequipa includes a fast 4,600-foot descent.