Nasser Al Attiyah today obtained a second success on the 38th edition of the Dakar. The Mini driver won after putting the pressure on during the second part of the stage. He beat Sébastien Loeb (Peugeot), who broke a gimbal two kilometres from the finishing line, and his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, who came in third. Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot), leader of the overall ranking, finished fourth and lost a little more than 8 minutes to the day’s winner. In the bike race, Toby Price (KTM), like Peterhansel, controlled his rivals, whilst Antoine Meo made a big impact to win the stage and grab hold of third place in the overall ranking.
It has been said that Nasser Al Attiyah will not give in until Rosario. Whilst he is too far behind to hope to finish on the first step of the podium without something going wrong for Peterhansel, the Qatari is taking the stages day by day with the aim of doing as well as possible and this strategy is working. Although the first part of the special gave rise to a superb struggle between Sébastien Loeb and Stéphane Peterhansel, the two Peugeot drivers were beaten at the end by the title holder.
Al Attiyah relentlessly caught up with Loeb first, before taking advantage over Peterhansel, who, having battled for extra seconds with his team-mate until that moment, slowed the pace until the end of the stage. He lost a few minutes, but most certainly this decision was aimed at calming things down and looking after his machine on a tricky end to the stage. As for Loeb, he tried to resist the comeback of Al Attiyah’s Mini but came close to losing everything. Two kilometres from the finishing line, a gimbal gave up the ghost on his DKR 2008 and the man from Alsace had to be towed across the finishing line thanks to a welcome helping hand form Cyril Despres. As proof, however, that the nine times WRC winner had put in a good performance on the special, he finished 1’09” ahead of Stéphane Peterhansel…
In the overall ranking, Stéphane Peterhansel (Peugeot) still boasts a lead of more than 51 minutes over Al Attiyah (Mini) and 1:17’24” over Giniel De Villiers (Toyota). This should be enough of a buffer to see him home to the finish in Rosario, even if the repeated problems encountered by the DKR 2008 could privately be chipping away at the outer calm displayed.
In the bike category, overall ranking leader Toby Price (KTM) again controlled the race today. The Australian followed the pace of his rivals before making a special effort on the second half of the stage. This evening, the official KTM leader increases his lead and now boasts a lead of more than 35 minutes over Stefan Svitko. Paulo Gonçalves (Honda) was forced to withdraw after a fall.
However, the duel that attracted special attention was the one opposing Antoine Meo, fourth in the general standings this morning, and Pablo Quintanilla, who was third. Separated by 1’15” at the start of the special, the two men traded blow for blow. In difficulty at one point and looking like giving in, the Frenchman raised the pace at a time when the Chilean was encountering brake problems.
This was a godsend for the five times enduro world champion, who distanced his rival by 2’38” at the finishing line. Stefan Svitko, who was fifth on today’s stage, finished 12 minutes behind the Frenchman and has legitimate reasons to start worrying. In second position in the general standings, he only has a lead of 8’23” over Meo. With two days left before the finish in Rosario, the question is obvious: can Antoine Meo catch Svitko? This will be one of the major stakes on what promises to be an exiting end to this Dakar.
In the truck category, Eduard Nikolaev beat Pieter Versluis and Ton Van Genugten whilst in the overall ranking, Gerard De Rooy (Iveco), sixth today, controlled his position with a lead of 1 hour and 9 minutes over the Kamaz of Ayrat Mardeev and 1 hour 45 minutes over the Iveco driven by Federico Villagra.
Lastly, in the quad race the special was halted at CP2 (after 243 km). Alejandro Patronelli was victorious, 59 seconds ahead of Brian Baragwanath and his brother Marcos (who finished 1’16” behind), though these gaps were recorded at CP4 (after 396 km). If these times are validated, the race could be in the balance again because Alejandro would only be 18 seconds behind his brother…