RIYADH: France’s Stephane Peterhansel remained atop the overall standings despite Qatari Nasser al-Attiyah claiming his third stage win of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday.
Al-Attiyah completed the 337km special fourth stage, as the caravanserai travelled a total of 813km from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to Riyadh, in 2hr 35min 59sec, just 11sec ahead of Peterhansel, a 13-time champion nicknamed “Mr Dakar’.
It left the Toyota-driving Qatari 4:58 off Peterhansel in the overall standings.
“It wasn’t an easy stage. We lost a minute to an error, but we were hardly the only ones to make a mistake and we quickly got back on track,” said Al-Attiyah, an Olympic skeet bronze medallist at the 2012 London Games.
Peterhansel said the stage had been marked by “one relentless attack after another, and in the end we finished in the same time!”
“Apart from a small navigation error near the finish, I don’t think I can attack much more,” said the Frenchman, whose previous Dakar victories came both in a car (seven) and on a motorbike (six).
“To stay in contention, we need to go all out. So far, so good, as we aren’t making too many mistakes.”
Defending champion Carlos Sainz went some way in making up for a costly navigation error on Tuesday by surging through the field to eventually finish fifth, a result that took him into third in the general classification, 36:19 off his Mini teammate’s leading time.
Spain’s Joan Barreda Bort, on a Honda, won the motorbike category, his second stage win of this Dakar.
The Spaniard timed 2hr 46min 50sec to finish the stage 5:57 ahead of Botswana’s Ross Branch (Yamaha), with Australian Daniel Sanders (KTM) taking third, at 6:09.
“It was another good stage. I started very far back because of my result yesterday, but that’s the way it is in this Dakar, you’re either at the front or far back. We need to keep it up,” Barreda said.
Barreda has been alternating victories with Toby Price since the first stage, but the Australian lost almost a quarter of an hour after opening the road for the stage and now sits 7:47 behind new overall leader Xavier de Soultrait.
Frenchman De Soultrait’s fifth-placed finish on his Husquvarna was enough to see him take a narrow 15sec lead over Barreda, with Argentinian Kevin Benavides in third (+3:34).
Overnight leader Skyler Howes (KTM) dropped down to fifth after only managing 20th place on the stage.
Howes’ American compatriot Ricky Brabec finished 18th at 12:53 and currently lies 15th in the general classification (+16:21), the defending champion perhaps riding more conservatively in a bid to make the most out of his tyres – motorcyclists are allowed only six rear tyres for the duration of the rally.
Barreda admitted that he had already used three tyres.
“The one I used today is quite worn, but I was supposed to use it for three days, so it’s not great news,” he said. “But we’ll see what we can do in the coming days.”
Thursday’s fifth stage sees competitors racing a 485km special between Riyadh and Al-Qaisumah, to the north of Saudi Arabia.
Organisers said the stage featured a tough dunes section and tracks littered with stones. “Haste makes waste — or, in this case, a flat tyre,” they warned. – AFP