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Peterhansel secures his landmark 50th Dakar Rally stage win with Audi

Dakar legend comes out on top in a fierce battle on stage two to equal an event record

The headline results from stage two of the Dakar Rally made for excellent reading for Audi: a stage victory for Peterhansel, and Carlos Sainz bagging the overall lead. And that’s before you get into the significance of the success for Peterhansel, not just where the record books are concerned, but also from a human perspective.

Yes, Mr Dakar is at it again. You don’t earn that sort of nickname for nothing. You’ve got to give your life and surrender your body to the world’s toughest off-road race. Peterhansel has. Thirty-six times. He has raced Dakar 35 times during which he’s stood upon the podium’s top step on a jaw-dropping 14 occasions – eight times on a motorbike and six behind the wheel of a car. This is a man of many skills. He’s also been runner-up three times and finished third twice, which means he’s bothered the podium in more than half the Dakar Rallies he’s entered. And spent over half his life entering them.

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Today he notched his 50th stage victory in cars by emerging from an intense battle with fellow French rallying legend Sébastien Loeb. Battling intensely throughout the stage, Stéphane came out 29 seconds in front in his Audi RS Q e-tron. More significant still, it means Peterhansel now shares the record for Dakar stage wins with the great Ari Vatanen - one that’s stood for two decades.

Audi Dakar Rally 2024 Stage 2

But forget that milestone for a minute. For Peterhansel, this was as much a statement moment for his partnership with co-driver Edouard Boulanger as it was a landmark result. Boulanger injured his back in a heavy landing off a sizeable sand dune on stage six of the Dakar last year - an impact significant enough to require Boulanger to be airlifted to hospital, with their car withdrawn accordingly.

That was, in Boulanger’s words, the most “serious” injury of his career - one that kept him out of intensive sport for four months and on the sidelines for two more. This stage two win, then, was a moment of vindication for Peterhansel. “To know that we're able to win a stage is really good,” he said, struggling to contain his smile. “After last year, the crash, it was not certain that we could get to the same level again with Edo’s [Boulanger’s] back, for me also. To be back in the fight is really nice.”

And it really was a fight. Stage two was a far less technical affair than Saturday’s opener, with 30km of dunes to tackle at the start before the route opened up into a faster, flowing test that brought out the best in the navigators. And it was Peterhansel/Boulanger who made the most of it; fastest at eight of the nine waypoints, the lead was briefly threatened by a charging Loeb, but Peterhansel held firm to record a second Audi win in three days following Mattias Ekström’s triumph on the Prologue.

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It was a perfect illustration, too, of just how quickly fortunes can change on the Dakar - the win putting Peterhansel up to ninth overall and providing an immediate remedy for any hangover felt following a muted 27th in the order at the end of an opening day spent opening the road that also featured two late punctures.

Audi Dakar Rally 2024 Stage 2

Carlos Sainz’s run on the route out of Al Henakiyah did not come with the same gloss - he and co-drive Lucas Cruz suffered their fourth puncture in two days - but he ended it with a similar grin plastered across his face to Peterhansel’s. Despite his time loss, Sainz was comfortably faster than day one leader Guillaume de Mevius, meaning he was greeted upon arrival at the Al Duwadimi bivouac with the news he’d leapt into an overall lead of 1m51s. Double the delight, then, for Audi; as Sainz himself put it: “You cannot ask for more.”

‘El Matador’ ended the 462km stage eighth in the classification, right behind Ekström. He and Emil Bergkvist had a puncture of their own to contend with but continued their assured start, as the seventh-fastest time elevated them to sixth in the overall classification, 11m17s behind leaders Sainz/Cruz. That’ll do just fine for the ever-positive Swede.

“It wasn't a super clean day, but we're still in the game and happy with how the car drives,” said Ekström. “If you have good pace then that will be the key to follow the train at the front for the coming days.”

Audi Dakar Rally 2024 Stage 2

For more Audi performance stories, head this way

*This vehicle shown here is the Rally Dakar vehicle that is not available as a production model. Closed course, professional driver. Do not attempt. The Audi RS Q e-tron combines an electric drivetrain with an energy converter system comprising a TFSI engine and generator.

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