PISCO - Defending champion Stephane Peterhansel overcame a 34-second overnight deficit to storm into the lead of the Dakar Rally on Sunday as former winners Carlos Sainz and Nasser al-Attiyah fell worryingly off the pace.

Frenchman Peterhansel, a 10-time champion on the world's toughest auto endurance race, took his Mini to victory on the second stage, a 242km timed run in and around Pisco, in 2hr 35min 38sec. South Africa's Giniel De Villiers, another experienced Dakar campaigner in his Toyota, was second on the day, 2min 35sec behind while French driver Ronan Chabot, in an SMG, was third, 3min 52sec off Peterhansel's pace.

"We had a good stage, mainly thanks to navigation. We're fast, and we've got the potential to go even faster, but it was mostly (co-driver) Jean-Paul Cottret's navigation which saved the day," said Peterhansel, who now has 60 stage wins. Overnight leader Sainz, the 2010 champion, endured a nightmare session, getting lost as he tackled a tricky dune at the 75km mark, and finished outside of the top 10.

"We need to have a look at the GPS, there may be something wrong with it," said former world rally champion Sainz, who lost around 18 minutes. "We went through certain points two or three times without them being validated, until we thought 'too bad, let's move on' and, after 15 km, it went back to normal... I don't know, we need to have a look at it."

Buggy teammate Al-Attiyah, the 2011 winner, was sixth on the stage, 11min 37sec behind and is also sixth overall, more than 10 minutes behind Peterhansel. He too endured navigational problems. "We went through a waypoint and nothing happened, so we continued to look around for a while and all of a sudden it was validated, not only for us but also for all the drivers behind us, who lost far less time," said the Qatari.

"So we drove flat out from then on in an attempt to claw back as much time as possible, and we finished at this pace. Of course, I'm happy with the car's performance and speed, but I'm obviously upset we lost time like this. Anyway, our two cars are in the running and, you never know, tomorrow it may be someone else's turn to have these problems."

Spain's Joan Barreda Bort, riding a Husqvarna, won the motorcycling stage and also took over the overall lead. Barreda Bort won in a time of 2hr 42min 31sec with compatriot Juan Pedrero Garcia, on a KTM, in second place, 3min 12sec behind. Australia's Matt Fish, on another Husqvarna, was third, 5min 53sec behind the leader.