Rally champion Peterhansel finds a silver lining in France's closure

PARIS: French Stephane Peterhansel , 13 times winner of the Dakar , the world's toughest endurance rally, is discovering that the confinement at the close in France is not all negative.

Under stringent confinement rules, the driver, used to the wide open spaces of Dakar rallying, is limited for exercise and training purposes to within a kilometer of his home in southern Corsica.

I was a bit lazy at the beginning of the lockdown, said rally driving's elder statesman, 54, who last competed in the January Dakar through the Arabian desert.

Playing with old endurance bikes and doing things I don't normally have time to do.

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Then after a few days, I started running around a bit.

We live near Porto-Vecchio, on the edge of the maquis, so within a kilometer perimeter you can run on remote trails and do some circuits.

The forced break from competition gives Peterhansel something he rarely enjoys: an opportunity to recharge his batteries.

I have been competing as a professional driver since I was 18 and the seasons roll on one after the other with the most important race, the Dakar, coming in January, he said.

So the only clean break that comes is when I get injured.

Now, it's a bit like that. I can take advantage of this time to recharge my batteries, because as the years go by, everything accumulates and is heavy. So this is not so bad.

He says he has no idea when the races will restart as the world struggles with him. coronavirus pandemic.

But he says drivers will have to be prepared and warns them to work hard.

You must do it in training, working twice as hard, because each competitor is in his own corner and you don't really know what they are doing, he said.

You don't know if everyone is waiting or if some manage to train a little better than others.

He says he hopes to get back behind the wheel in July for the Silk Way Rally in Russia, but says everything is uncertain at the moment.

We are in the dark and there is no program, he said.