Following serious damage to his Audi on Sunday’s opening stage, reigning Dakar Rally champion Stephane Peterhansel has effectively gone out of contention for victory in 2022.

Peterhansel had been running an excellent second in his electric Audi RS Q e-tron, barely six seconds behind overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah of Toyota, after finishing 14th in Saturday’s Prologue.

However, after hitting “something” in a patch of camel grass 153 kilometers into the stage at Ha’il, the Frenchman destroyed the rear axle of his Audi RS Q e-tron.

Both Peterhansel and his co-driver, Edouard Boulanger, were unharmed in the incident, although they were detained for 6h20m while waiting for help.

To make room for the technicians of their assistance vehicle, they first disassembled the entire left rear axle. The Frenchmen continued their journey through the stage after the truck arrived and replaced the broken pieces.

However, after losing another half-hour on an unexplained issue 40 kilometers later, they decided to abandon the stage at the neutralisation point at 207 kilometers and return to the bivouac by road, avoiding the dangers of driving at night, arriving at 20:15 local time.

These setbacks have practically killed Peterhansel’s ambitions of winning the Dakar for a record-tying 15th time in 2022, but he is set to return to the race on Monday to continue developing Audi’s sophisticated electric competitor.

After three seasons with X-raid Mini, the 56-year-old is leading Audi’s comeback to cross-country rallying this year, with former teammate Carlos Sainz Sr and two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom rounding out the three-car lineup.

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