Peterhansel's rally chances fade

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Stephane Peterhansel's bid to win the Dakar Rally car category for the first time has been dealt a major blow after he fell almost an hour behind the leader following yesterday's seventh stage between Ouarzazate and Tan Tan in Morocco.

The Frenchman, who has won the motorcycle category six times, finished the 351–kilometre special stage in 12th place to lie eighth in the standings.

He is now 58 minutes behind the Mitsubishi of Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka who won the stage by 14 seconds and holds a lead in the overall rankings of almost three–and–a–half minutes.

Belgian Gregoire de Mevius (Nissan) took second on the stage and lies third in the rankings.

Masuoka's fellow countryman Kenjiro Shinozuka took his Mitsubishi to third on the stage and holds second position in the overall standings.

Jutta Kleinschmidt's bid to retain the title she won last year is still on course after she took her Mitsubishi to fifth on the stage to lie fourth overall, just under 17 minutes behind Masuoka.

Two pre–race favourites in the motorcycle category also saw their hopes dented as Frenchman Cyril Despres was forced out with an injury and Kari Tiainen fell almost an hour off the pace because of wheel problems.

Despres crashed his KTM and was forced to set off his distress beacon, withdrawing himself from the race in the process, after suffering a bad hip injury.

Tiainen had been lying second behind fellow KTM rider Juan Roma, from Spain, going into the stage but lost time because of wheel problems.

Chilean Carlo de Gavardo won the stage ahead of Spain's Isidre Esteve Pujol, with Roma making it a KTM clean sweep of the top three places.

Unlike the car drivers the motorcycle competitors were not given an overall classification following the seventh stage as the organisers are rolling it on into the eighth stage, effectively creating a marathon stage of 1,500km.