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Exclusive: Peterhansel reflects on Dakar success and looks to the future

Stephane Peterhansel enjoyed particular success in the Dakar Rally. The Frenchman won six times on the motorcycle and eight times in the car. The 58-year-old Peterhansel, who currently drives for Audi, explains in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365 why the Dakar attracts him so much.

Peterhansel
Interview
To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

35 participations, 83 stage wins and 14 overall victories in the Dakar Rally. Stephane Peterhansel's list of honors is particularly large. The Frenchman first participated in 1988, then on a motorcycle. He would win six times on behalf of Yamaha and switched to cars 10 years later, winning eight more times with Mitsubishi, Mini and Peugeot.

In January 2024, Peterhansel will embark on his 36th Dakar Rally. The 58-year-old driver will participate with Audi, which is taking part in the world's toughest rally with a revolutionary electric vehicle. But why does Peterhansel still get butterflies in his stomach as the Dakar approaches? He explains in an exclusive interview with RacingNews365.

"There are a few reasons for that," Peterhansel explains. "First of all, I have been involved in motorsports since I was young, so I love action, adrenaline and speed. This has been the case since I first rode a motorcycle when I was eight years old.

"But it's not just about adrenaline. It is also about where we ride the race, because we are very lucky to be able to enter the most beautiful landscapes. The desert is a fantastic place with a special atmosphere. Motorsports and the landscapes give me a lot of pleasure and passion. I love this work. There is no better work for me."

Peterhansel switched to cars for safety reasons

Peterhansel began his Dakar career on a motorcycle, but switched to cars after about 10 years. The Frenchman explains how he came to that decision.

"When I stopped motorcycling, I was very lucky. I didn't experience a major incident. From my first Dakar on the bike, I already knew it was very dangerous. And I always try to be safe, so after ten participations and six wins, I thought it was time for a change. I didn't want to take any more risks on the bike."

"Furthermore, you are always alone as a motorcycle rider, so you never share emotions with another person. If you got lost, it was pretty scary because you were riding around alone. Moreover, so you celebrated a stage win alone, too. It didn't get boring, but it was tough to always ride thousands of kilometers by yourself. I wanted to share the emotions with a navigator and I was always fascinated by cars. My father was a rally driver and so I found a race car very interesting."

That doesn't mean Peterhansel has lost his passion for motorcycles: "I don't ride as much as I used to, but it's still a big passion of mine. I work small enduro races on motorcycles. I started in enduro before I rode Dakar and now I do it for fun. For example, three months ago, during a test with Audi in Morocco, my navigator and I rode three hundred kilometers through the desert on a motorcycle."

Did the Frenchman ever consider getting into a truck and completing the trilogy? "I did consider it once. Ten years ago we tested in the south of France with Gerard de Rooy. I found it interesting, but if I can choose between a factory car and a truck, I prefer a top car.

"Now I don't know. We have been very lucky, because I have been able to drive the best cars for 20 years. That started with Mitsubishi and Mini and now it's the same with Audi. When you get that opportunity, I think you have to take it."

What is the greatest moment of his long career? "The first victory on the bike, because it was a dream to drive this rally and to win.... That was one of the best days of my life."

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