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Sainz on course to top Dakar Rally

Al Attiyah wins penultimate stage while Walkner maintains edge in bike category

Image Credit: Reuters
Carlos Sainz and co-pilot Lucas Cruz of Spain drive their Peugeot during the 369-kilometre stage 13 of the Dakar Rally between San Juan and Cordoba, Argentina.
Gulf News

Cordoba, Argentina: Toyota driver Nasser Al Attiyah won the penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally on Friday, while Carlos Sainz took advantage of a crash involving defending champion Stephane Peterhansel to increase his overall lead and boost his chances of winning the world’s toughest rally.

Al Attiyah finished the 369-kilometre stage between San Juan and Cordoba, Argentina, in 2 hours, 53 minutes. Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez was 11:16 behind in second place in his privately-run Hilux, with Toyota’s Giniel De Villiers of South Africa taking third spot, 13:06 behind the leader.

The 13th stage of the Dakar was full of dramatic turns.

Dutchman Bernhard ten Brinke led the second part over a series of sand dunes with difficult areas of fine, soft sand known as “fesh-fesh.” But he was later forced to drop out of the competition after his Toyota suffered mechanical problems.

Meanwhile, Peterhansel’s crash ruled out any chance of a comeback for another victory for the man who has won more Dakars than anyone. The accident also caused the Frenchman to lose second spot in the overall standings to Al Attiyah from Qatar.

Sainz, who won the rally in 2010, failed to finish the last five Dakars because of mechanical problems or crashes. This time around, he has avoided unnecessary risks in the final stages in what now seems like a certain path to victory. His overall lead is 46:18, with Al Attiyah in second place. De Villiers is third, 1:20:00 off the pace.

“I tried to play it safe, even if there were plenty of tricky parts,” Sainz said. “Since the start, there has been a lot of drama in this race and it’s not over until we’ve crossed the finishing line. It’s not a crazy Dakar, but it’s very difficult. I hope everything will go OK tomorrow.”

In the motorbike race, Australian rider Toby Price of the KTM team won the stage. He was followed by Argentine Kevin Benavides of Honda and Frenchman Antoine Nemeo, whose strong performance allowed him to gain a place in the general standings, climbing to fourth spot above his KTM teammate Gerard Farres of Spain.

Overall, Austria’s Matthias Walkner leads Benavides by 22:31 and Price by 27:45.

Walkner will take a 20-minute lead into the final day of the rally, after finishing fourth behind winner Toby Price on Friday’s penultimate bikes stage.

KTM rider Walkner finished over 11 minutes behind Price on the day, but will take a lead of over 20 minutes into Saturday’s final 284-kilometre ride around Cordoba as he looks for a maiden Dakar title after coming second 12 months ago.