HARADH, Saudi Arabia: Stephane Peterhansel snatched a dramatic 11th stage of the Dakar Rally on Thursday when he pipped Nasser Al-Attiyah to the line by just 10 seconds, as Carlos Sainz maintained the overall lead heading into the final day.
Frenchman Peterhansel won his fourth stage of this year’s race in his Mini ahead of Toyota’s Al-Attiyah in Haradh, and finished more than eight minutes ahead of teammate Sainz.
“We fought hard, we pushed all day long and we gained some time, but not enough. Now, if Carlos can bring it home, it’ll be great for the team,” said Peterhansel.
Spanish veteran Sainz, 57, is 10 minutes and 23 seconds ahead of Peterhansel, who is third in the overall standings going into Friday’s final 374-kilometer stage between Haradh and Qiddiyah, and the Spaniard is still on course for his third Dakar victory.
“Just one day to go. I’ll keep an eye on the gaps and stay focused for tomorrow,” said Sainz.
“We have a little work to do on the car but everything is working well.”
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However “Mr. Dakar” Peterhansel, who has won the rally 13 times (seven in a car, six on a bike), is just six seconds behind Qatari defending champion Al-Attiyah, who sits second.
Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso finished eighth on the day to sit 13th overall, four hours and 43 minutes behind Sainz.
Two-time world rally champion Sainz, whose son Carlos Sainz Jr drives for McLaren in Formula One, previously won the Dakar in 2010 and 2018.
On the bikes, Pablo Quintanilla won the 11th stage by just nine seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Matthias Walkner, significantly closing the gap between him and overall leader Ricky Brabec, who finished the stage 11 minutes 48 seconds back in 10th.
“It could be a really great day for us so we have to keep our fingers crossed and keep a positive mindset,” said Brabec.
Chilean Quintanilla is however still nearly 14 minutes behind Brabec going into the final stage.
“I’m really happy with this stage. It is always a nice feeling to win a stage. It was really difficult and I gave it my 100 percent from the beginning,” said Quintanilla.
“I took back a lot of time from Ricky, but there is still a bit of difference between us. We still have a few kilometers to push tomorrow.”