Dakar Rally crashes KO Peterhansel and Sainz
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Stage winner Nasser Al-Attiyah took control of the Dakar Rally on Friday after misfortune in the Saudi Arabian dunes effectively knocked out chief rivals Stephane Peterhansel, Carlos Sainz and Yazeed Al Rajhi.
Al-Attiyah won his third stage of the first week to extend his lead to more than an hour over Toyota teammate Henk Lategan.
Al-Attiyah was dueling with Peterhansel, Al Rajhi and Sainz — who started the day second, third, and fourth overall — until the latter trio came to grief after 212 kilometers of the 357-kilometer sixth stage between Ha’il and Riyadh.
Peterhansel failed to negotiate a dune jump and the impact was bad enough that co-driver Edouard Boulanger was flown to hospital with a back injury. He was reportedly OK. Peterhansel, the eight-time champion in a car, also went to hospital as a precaution and had to abandon the world’s toughest rally for only the fourth time in this century.
Sainz crashed at the same spot and one of his wheels was ripped off. He and co-driver Lucas Cruz were OK but spent hours waiting for assistance to make repairs.
Just a few kilometers further on, Al Rajhi crashed in similar circumstances after making a jump. He was given a drive shaft by Lategan and finished the stage five hours behind Al-Attiyah.
Sebastien Loeb was second on the stage, and improved to sixth overall, but still trailed by two hours.
With more than an hour’s lead overall, Al-Attiyah could afford to not thrash his car so hard to win a fifth Dakar title.
“We really pushed a lot but for the last 40 kilometers we broke the steering pump, so we didn’t have any steering,” the Qatari said. “We had a lot of oil coming out. We’ll try to repair it.”
In the motorbike class, Luciano Benavides won his first stage in his sixth Dakar. The Argentine riding a Husqvarna was the seventh different winner in seven stages.
U.S. teammate Skyler Howes was less than a minute behind in second and strengthened his lead overall.
Toby Price trailed by 3 1/2 minutes in second, and another former champion in Kevin Benavides — brother of Luciano — was seven minutes back in third. The top seven were all within 13 minutes.
“It was a really fun stage and the dunes were wet still, so you got a lot of traction through them,” Howes said. “They were really consistent, too. A lot of the times you could jump them. I got caught out a couple of times and jumped into some pretty big compressions, so that slowed me down a bit.”
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