Al-Attiyah still in front on Dakar; Howes has motorbike lead
HA’IL, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah extended his lead of the Dakar Rally when he won the sandy fifth stage on Thursday.
Al-Attiyah’s second win in the northern Saudi Arabia desert in the first week gave him a 22-minute gap on eight-time champion Stephane Peterhansel and 27 minutes on local driver Yazeed Al Rajhi.
Al-Attiyah imposed himself about halfway through the 374-kilometer loop course around Ha’il.
“We tried to really push like crazy,” the Qatari said. “We took a lot of risks. The other teams have more power and more horsepower but I’m happy to finish today without any problems. It’s very hard because the base is that we’re pushing a lot and we are really tired.”
Sebastien Loeb was close to Al-Attiyah until he made a mistake on a dune, hit a big clump of camel grass and rolled his ProDrive on its side. The car was OK but Loeb lost almost 20 minutes.
Three-time winner Carlos Sainz finished two minutes behind Al-Attiyah on the stage, and Peterhansel, who led the early going, was third.
Both complained about how badly the rough track impacted their bodies, especially their necks.
Sainz said, “We hope we can carry on and get to the end.”
Peterhansel said, “It was one of the hardest stages in my life.”
French rider Adrien van Beveren was first home after four motorbike leaders lost their way around halfway for about 10-15 minutes.
Joan Barreda, the stage four winner, Pablo Quintanilla, Skyler Howes and Toby Price — all in the top seven overall — had to turn around.
Mason Klein moved to the front of the stage with Van Beveren and Jose Cornejo.
Then Barreda fell 20 kilometers from the finish and banged his head and Price hit his bike. Barreda was helped to restart and lost only five more minutes.
Price was the biggest beneficiary in being awarded time for helping Barreda with Quintanilla and Howes.
After Van Beveren won the stage by 13 seconds from fellow Honda rider Cornejo after 4 1/2 hours, Price was given third.
The Australian also moved up to second overall, two minutes behind new leader Howes. Kevin Benavides remained third, five minutes back.
Overnight leader Daniel Sanders was 21st on the stage and dropped to eighth overall, nearly 18 minutes off the pace.
Organizers announced that the bivouac planned for Al Duwadimi on Friday and Saturday was moved to Riyadh because of flooding. The course on Friday was shortened by 100 kilometers.
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