Qatar’s Al-Attiyah wins penultimate Dakar stage but deflated Peterhansel keeps lead

X-Raid Mini JCW Team’s Stephane Peterhansel and Co-Driver Edouard Boulanger in action during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally. (Reuters)
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X-Raid Mini JCW Team’s Stephane Peterhansel and Co-Driver Edouard Boulanger in action during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally. (Reuters)
Mini's driver Stephane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger of France change a tyre as hey compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Mini's driver Stephane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger of France change a tyre as hey compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
Mini's Spanish drivers Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Mini's Spanish drivers Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
British biker Sam Sunderland (R) powers his Ktm's in front U's biker Skyler Howes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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British biker Sam Sunderland (R) powers his Ktm's in front U's biker Skyler Howes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
Ktm's British biker Sam Sunderland competes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Ktm's British biker Sam Sunderland competes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Qatar’s Al-Attiyah wins penultimate Dakar stage but deflated Peterhansel keeps lead

X-Raid Mini JCW Team’s Stephane Peterhansel and Co-Driver Edouard Boulanger in action during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally. (Reuters)
  • Peterhansel will start the final stage, a 225-kilometer run across chains of dunes to Jeddah, leading by a quarter of an hour

YANBU, Saudi Arabia: Nasser Al-Attiyah won his fifth stage on the Dakar Rally on Thursday when he finished nearly two minutes ahead of leader Stephane Peterhansel but still trails the Frenchman with one day to go.
Peterhansel will start the final stage, a 225-kilometer run across chains of dunes to Jeddah, leading by a quarter of an hour as he seeks to add to his record 13 victories in the race.


“We lost just a few minutes, it’s nothing,” said Peterhansel at the finish. “There’s only one day to go... It’s time to cross fingers and hope that we will be in first place at the end.”
The longest stage of the race, a 464-kilometer drive across sand dunes from AlUla to Yanbu brought a day of changing fortunes.
Peterhansel led with an advantage of more than three minutes over Al-Attiyah after 306 kilometers but suffered two punctures.
Khalid Al-Qassimi took the lead after 362 kilometers at which point Al-Attiyah had closed to within seven seconds of Peterhansel.
Peterhansel regained the lead and was 38 seconds ahead of the chasing Al-Attiyah 30 kilometers from the finish but could not hold the lead.
“Today it was really complicated, like the organizers said beforehand, like we expected it to be, because the navigation was not easy, but we got two punctures, especially the last one that was in the dunes,” the Frenchman said.
“They were really strange dunes,” he added. “In the middle of the dunes there were some rocks just after the crest of the dunes, so it was not easy to anticipate or to see. The last one was a very big impact and we had another puncture. We were a little bit afraid that also some part of the frame was broken, but at the end it was OK.”
Al-Attiyah, driving a Toyota, eventually crossed the line in 4hr 34min 24sec, 1min 56sec ahead of Peterhansel in his Mini.
“It really wasn’t easy,” said the Qatari, who also won the prologue.
“I am really happy to be here on day 11 without any technical problems with the car,” he added. “We have really had a lot of punctures. I’ve had more than 16 tires punctured. I am sure that 16 tires times one minute and a half each change is a lot.”
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz in another Mini was a further 30 seconds back in third. Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi was fourth in a Toyota.
Briton Sam Sunderland, 2017 Dakar champion, won the motorbike category, the KTM rider timing 4hr 35min 21 sec for the stage, maintaining a comfortable 2:40 lead over the Husqvarna ridden by Pablo Quintanilla.
“I knew that today was one of my last chances to try to win and I gave my all, all day,” said Sunderland.
“We still have one day to go and many things can happen on one stage.”
Argentina’s Kevin Benavides increased his lead in the overall standings over American Honda teammate and defending champion Ricky Brabec to 7:13, with Sunderland currently second, at 4:12.
“We did a really good job with Ricky,” said Benavides, who broke his nose as he shattered his helmet jumping off a dune on stage five.
“It was a really hard day, very long with plenty of navigation, a lot of sand and dunes.”
Benavides added: “With Ricky we pushed together on the dunes... Tomorrow we will push like every day, no other strategy than that.
“There are no team orders and yes, the race is still open.”
There was drama on the stage as Spain’s Joan Barreda, a two-stage winner also on a Honda, exited the race after missing a refueling stop and subsequently running out of petrol.

 


Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
Updated 19 January 2021

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change

Australia says ‘no’ to tennis stars’ calls for COVID-19 quarantine change
  • ‘People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no’
  • ‘They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements’

SYDNEY: Australian authorities said mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving for the Australian Open tennis tournament was essential to stop COVID-19, as the country recorded another day with no new locally acquired cases on Tuesday.
Some of the world’s top tennis players including world No. 1 Novak Djokovic have questioned the country’s enforced 14-day hotel quarantine, suggesting they should be allowed to complete the process in accommodation with tennis courts before the tournament which starts in Victoria state on Feb. 8.
But Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said he would not make changes.
“People are free to ask for things, but the answer is no,” Andrews told reporters in a televised news conference.
“They knew what they were traveling into and we are not cutting corners or making special arrangements.”
More than 70 players and their entourage are confined to their hotel rooms after passengers on three charter flights returned positive tests for the coronavirus. Victoria recorded four new cases in hotel quarantine on Tuesday, but these are not counted as community transmissions.
Andrews came under substantial pressure in 2020 after putting the country’s second-most populous state into a months-long lockdown to fight a second wave of infections of the new coronavirus.
In neighboring New South Wales state, Hollywood actor Matt Damon was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine after arriving to film a “Thor” sequel in Sydney.
Damon flew in on a private jet, will stay in a rented house under security and pay for hospital-grade cleaning for his 14-day quarantine, a doctor involved in his quarantine was quoted saying in local media.
As Australia’s hard-line border controls keep daily numbers of new coronavirus cases at zero or low single digits, tourism operators have called for additional subsidies after health authorities suggested the country would not fully reopen its borders in 2021.
If the industry did not receive an extension of federal wage subsidies that are due to end in March, “we’ll be lucky to have a tourism industry in 12 or 18 months’ time,” Tourism and Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
But Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the country would be unlikely to fully reopen its border soon, even though it hopes to start a vaccination program next month.
“There will be a process through 2021 of returning to some sort of normal,” Kelly told reporters.
“Unfortunately, international borders changes will be one of the last things to change, rather than the first.”