It is still too soon to talk about a winner-elect. It can all change in a flash at any time over the remaining three stages. That is one thing that the teams and experts agree on. Despite all that, Stéphane Peterhansel still ended the twelfth day of the 2012 Dakar with a broad smile on his face. Stéphane now has a lead of 2:10:31 hours over his rival for the overall victory, Robby Gordon, giving him a very comfortable cushion.
It did not look like turning out that way at the start of the day, as Gordon was able to eat into at least some of the leader's 19:51-minute advantage at the top of the overall rankings. The American set the fastest time on each of the first three sections of the eleventh stage, clawing back 2:52 minutes. But, just as it did yesterday, it all went wrong for Gordon. Massive mechanical problems meant Gordon was forced to stop in his Hummer for a good hour and a half while the rest of the field pulled past him and Stéphane pulled further and further ahead.
As such, Stéphane continues to top the overall rankings, 22:49 minutes ahead of his team-mate Nani Roma, who matched him practically step for step on Thursday's stage. Nani finished with the second fastest time of the day. The X-raid team's remaining three MINI ALL4 Racings also enjoyed an outstanding day. Ricardo Leal dos Santos finished third today to complete a hat-trick for MINI. Leonid Novitskiy was fifth and Krzysztof Holowczyc came home in sixth place. In the overall rankings, Leonid, Ricardo and Krzysztof now lie in fourth, eighth and tenth respectively.
On Friday, the teams will once again face some real challenges on the 657-kilometre route to Nazca. After a long connection to the start of the time sector, the first dunes are just 15 kilometres away. The route then primarily continues on sand before climbing to an altitude of 1700 metres. This is another section for the dune specialists. From 190 kilometres into the special stage, the route takes the competitors from one sandy hill to the next for a good 30 kilometres. Once again, driving prowess and very good orientation are the order of the day.
For the fastest information on the five MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles of the X-raid team at the Dakar Rally, go to the MINI Motorsport Twitter channel.
The X-raid team is out to extend its winning run at the Baja Poland. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei is aiming to extend his lead in the World Cup. Krzysztof Holowczyc is confident ahead of his home event.
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The X-raid team is taking its next step towards the 2013 Rally Dakar at the Baja Spain. The event is also Stéphane Peterhansel's first start since his Dakar victory in January.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
A good five weeks after the X-raid team's one-two at the Rally Dakar, the victorious MINI ALL4 Racing cars have finally returned to the team's headquarters. This is the signal for the big homecoming party to begin.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.