Pisco, Peru - Cyril Despres put Peugeot into the lead of the Dakar Rally on Sunday as the French manufacturer bounced back from a difficult opening day in the dunes around Pisco in southern Peru.
A five-times winner on two wheels, Despres took over at the top of the car classification from earlier starter Qatari Nasser al-Attiyah who had won Saturday's short first timed stage from Lima.
Despres ended the day with a 27-second lead over his compatriot, team-mate and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel, who is chasing his 14th Dakar title. Peugeot finished one-two-three in the stage, with nine-times world rally champion Sebastian Loeb third after losing his brakes on Saturday.
South African Giniel de Villiers finished the stage fourth overall, 4m18s behind Loeb, but moved up to third overall, 5m44s behind Depres, thanks to Loeb's poor performance on Stage 1.
“It was really tough out there,” said De Villiers after the early-morning stage. “The dunes can be quite tricky in places, and finding your way really is a challenge in these conditions.”
Toyota's Al-Attiyah had the handicap of opening the 267km stage, a loop around Pisco, with no motorcycle tracks for guidance this time and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel feeling unwell in a stage requiring careful navigation. They dropped to fifth overall, 12m15s off the lead.
"It was not easy," Al-Attiyaua said. "Matthieu was completely sick after 15km and we needed to take care. We are quite happy just to finish...
"Tomorrow we'll have a better road. If we start in a good position, it will be no problem, I think."
The day brought disaster for top South African navigator Rob Howie, calling the pace notes for experienced Argentinian driver Lucio Alvarez in another SA-built Hilux, who were running seventh when they rolled the Toyota. Neither was hurt, but it took almost three hours to get the Hilux back on its wheels and running, dropping them to 42nd overall.
South African Dakar rookie Hennie de Klerk put in an heroic drive in the TreasuryOne Amarok, starting 58th after Sunday's Stage 1 and storming through Stage 2 to come in 30th for the day, and move up to 32nd overall.
“We found a decent pace early on and played it safe all day,” De Klerk said. “So when we turned up 30th at the finish, to be very honest we were thrilled and quite surprised.
Britain's defending champion Sam Sunderland lost the lead to Honda's Spanish rider Joan Barreda Bort and fell to fourth overall. Barreda Bort leads French Yamaha rider Adrien van Beveren by two-and-a-half minutes.
Top lady rider Laia Sanz (KTM) had a tough day in the dunes, losing 21 minutes and dropping to 24th overall.
But she wasn’t the only one; South African David Thomas (Husqvarna) dropped from 21st to 61st, more than an hour off the pace.
Willem du Toit (KTM), by contrast, moved up four places from 76th to 72nd overall, while Capetonian rookie Donovan van de Langeberg (KTM), finished 82nd on the day and moved up from 88th to 74th overall.
Wessel Bosman KTM, however, dropped from 103rd to 120th, while Gerry van der Byl, after a baptism of fire in the dunes on Saturday, was still third last - but was up to 124th after no less than 10 riders went out on Stage 2.
Monday's 296-km third stage is south from Pisco to the coastal town of San Juan de Marcona.