JEDDAH: Nasser Al-Attiyah won a third consecutive stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia and remained five minutes behind overall leader Stephane Peterhansel on Wednesday.
Al-Attiyah opened the 337-kilometer (209-mile) special between Wadi Ad-Dawasir and Riyadh and led for almost all of it, out-dueling Toyota teammate and Dakar newcomer Henk Lategan and seven-time champion Peterhansel.
Lategan led the fourth stage briefly after the midway point, while Peterhansel started the last 40 kilometers more than a minute behind but powered home to finish second by just 11 seconds.
“We aren’t making too many mistakes,” Peterhansel said. “In the old times, 50% of all contenders would be knocked out by driving mistakes or technical issues, but it’s become far less common, so you just have to hold on.”
Sebastien Loeb also had a great finish to place fourth, while defending champion Carlos Sainz did not, dropping from second to fifth after starting 17th.
Peterhansel remained the overall leader and Al-Attiyah was second. Nobody else was within 30 minutes of them. Sainz was third, Loeb fourth, and Lategan fifth. Mathieu Serradori, who started the day third overall, suffered an early navigation error, lost more than 20 minutes, and slid to seventh.
In the motorbike class, Joan Barreda of Portugal won the stage from starting 30th, and was second overall to Xavier de Soultrait, the fifth different leader in five days. Only 5 1/2 minutes separate the top six riders.
Barreda dominated the stage — he also won stage two — followed by Ross Branch of Botswana. Australian newcomer Daniel Sanders was third.
Toby Price, who has also won two stages, had an unplanned detour early and lost five minutes. Defending champion Ricky Brabec was nearly 13 minutes off the pace, and Pablo Quintanilla, the runner-up last year, was 7 1/2 minutes off.
De Soultrait, who was seventh in 2019, led overall by only 15 seconds from Barreda. Branch, Argentine brothers Kevin and Luciano Benavides and previous leader Skyler Howes were all within seven seconds of each other.
“It’s difficult to open up large gaps in stages like these,” de Soultrait said. “We’d have to attack like a madman, but we’re already going very fast. I again reached 175 kph. I could go faster, but I don’t feel like it. You also need to follow the roadbook.”