The results of the Dakar Rally in the car category could take “months” to be confirmed, according to sporting director Marc Coma.
Although Peugeot’s Stephane Peterhansel is heading towards a likely 12th career Dakar win, with a lead of 41 minutes overall with just Saturday’s final stage to go, the result will remain provisional due to the rival X-raid team’s protest after the eighth stage.
The controversy surrounds whether or not Peterhansel was permitted to refuel midway through the stage, with Peugeot boss Bruno Famin saying the refuelling point was listed in the roadbook, and X-raid chief Sven Quandt arguing this was only for bikes and quads.
Officials concluded that, because the rules were open to interpretation, that Peterhansel should not be penalised – a decision that has been contested by X-raid, whose appeal could take until March to process, according to Coma.
"Never before in the Dakar do I remember having a situation like this," commented rally director Etienne Lavigne.
Al-Attiyah resigned to second
Were Peterhansel to be eventually penalised or disqualified, leading X-raid Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah would be the man to benefit – but the Qatari insists he is focused on securing second place.
"I will try to gain some time; we'll see what happens,” he told Motorsport.com. “We need to finish second, but we are in a good position for tomorrow.”
Commenting on Friday’s penultimate stage, he added: "It was a good stage for us with many hours of driving.
“It was not easy to open the road because the surface was complicated and decided not to take many risks during the special. It was important not to lose time and were close to Stephane.”
Al-Attiyah also said, with second overall looking safe, he would try to help teammate Mikko Hirvonen move up to third place at the expense of Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers.
“Mikko tried to beat de Villiers, this was something we talked about, so I had to push,” he said.
“It will be difficult to reach the podium for Mikko, but tomorrow is a different day and we’ll see what we can do.”
Additional reporting by Luis Ramirez