Dakar 2017: Loeb thinks Peterhansel can't be caught now
Sebastien Loeb believes his 2017 Dakar Rally victory hopes are realistically over now Peugeot team-mate Stephane Peterhansel is nearly six minutes clear with two stages left
Loeb, contesting his second Dakar, is sat 5m50s behind Peterhansel after his team-mate was given back time following his crash with KTM rider Simon Marcic on Thursday.
The remaining 221 miles of timed running are expected to favour Loeb as they will be mostly comprised of straightforward road tracks, but the Frenchman believes there will not be enough distance to make up ground to Peterhansel on driving alone.
"I expect that, even if it's some roads - and [Friday] is also off-road in the beginning - it will be a lot of time [to recover]," he said.
"I think, without trouble [for Peterhansel], it will not be possible - but we still can try."
Loeb, who entered Thursday's Chilecito -San Juan as rally leader, lost crucial ground to Peterhansel on the first part of the timed special, before the neutralsied zone.
"We were lost three or four times in the wrong valley, doing two kilometres... a very rough section, and finally it wasn't the good way," he said.
"We came back, trying another way, then again and lost a lot of time in another place.
"It was very, very tricky. Not really fun. It's too difficult to find a waypoint.
"We have to pass with our car in a road like this [very narrow], it's sometimes nearly impossible."
Asked if he and co-driver Daniel Elena lost their cool in the car when they realised they were lost, Loeb said: "A little bit, cause we saw we lost too much.
"In the next stage [after the neutralisation], I tried really maximum all the stage. I think we did a very good second stage - and we are here, that's the most important."
DESPRES COULDN'T FOLLOW LOEB
Early on in the day, Peugeot's third driver Cyril Despres appeared to have a chance to win the stage and increase his chances of stealing an unlikely Dakar win from his team-mates.
But Despres would lose ground to Loeb and Peterhansel after the neutralised zone and now sits 25 minutes off the rally leader in third.
"They were quicker," Despres acknowledged. "The air conditioner stopped in my car, I started to get hot - I didn't find a good rhythm.
"Sebastien got a little bit lost - we overtook him on the first part but then on the second part, he overtook us. It was really fast, a lot of holes, not easy to catch a good rhythm."
Peterhansel given Dakar Rally lead back after collision with biker
Stephane Peterhansel on brink of 2017 Dakar Rally victory