Rally champ Peterhansel finds silver lining in lockdown France

Stephane Peterhansel navigates his Mini through the desert in the 2020 Dakar Rally

Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, 13-times winner of the Dakar, the world's toughest endurance rally, is finding that confinement in lockdown 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 kilometre 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.

"Tinkering with old endurance bikes and doing stuff I don't normally get time to do.

"Then after a few days I started with a bit of running.

"We live near Porto-Vecchio, on the edge of the maquis, so within the one kilometre perimeter you can run on little remote paths and do a few circuits."

The enforced rest 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 ever comes is when I am injured.

"Now, it's a bit like that. I can take this time to recharge my batteries, because as the years go by it all builds up, and it's heavy. So this is really not so bad."

He says he has no idea when racing will restart as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

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

"You have got to go for it in training, working twice as hard, because every competitor is in his own corner and you don't know really what they are up to," he said.

"You don't know if everyone is on stand-by or whether some are managing to train a bit better than other."

He says he is hoping to be back behind the wheel in July for the Silk Way Rally in Russia but says it is all uncertain at this point.

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