Roma and Gordon close on Peterhansel after stage eight
Mini's Stephane Peterhansel saw his lead of the 2012 Dakar Rally cut to less than eight minutes as team-mate Nani Roma and the Hummer of Robby Gordon set the pace on stage eight.
Roma and Gordon were separated by just five seconds at the end of the 477km stage, which traversed the Atacama desert and was the longest on this year's route.
Roma claimed the stage honours with a time of 4h25m44s, but Gordon's efforts were enough to move him into second in the overall classification, and to within seven minutes and 36 seconds of Peterhansel. Roma lies a further five minutes back.
"Nani [Roma] may have beaten me, but it must have been close," Gordon said. "Beating Peterhansel by seven minutes makes this a great day.
"In all honesty, I did not attack too much, except towards the end of the stage. At any rate, I was not at my best in the first 300 kilometres, only in the last 150. I felt the others breathing down my neck, so I accelerated."
Krzysztof Holowczyc, who had lain second before today's stage, finished third but dropped behind Gordon in the overall classification.
He too made ground on Peterhansel however, gaining just over three minutes on his Mini stable-mate, who finished behind him in fourth.
Nasser Al-Attiyah's hopes of defending his 2011 Dakar crown meanwhile were dealt a fresh blow shortly after the stage got underway, with the Qatari driver stopping twice in the first 64 km.
He was able to get going both times and battled back to finish the stage in fifth, but lost eight minutes to Roma and almost three minutes to Peterhansel. He now lies over 45 minutes off the overall lead.
<font color='Black'>Leading positions after stage eight:</font>
<font color='Navy'>Pos Driver Car Time/Gap</font>
<font color='Blue'> 1. Stephane Peterhansel Mini 20h05m15s
2. Robby Gordon Hummer + 7m36s
3. Krzysztof Holowczyc Mini + 7m48s
4. Nani Roma Mini + 12m27s
5. Giniel de Villiers Toyota + 37m45s
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah Hummer + 45m25s
7. Leonid Novitskiy Mini + 1h07m33s
8. Carlos Sousa Great Wall + 1h23m29s
9. Lucio Alvarez Toyota + 2h04m15s
10. Erik van Loon Mitsubishi + 2h19m04s</font>