WADI AD-DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia: Giniel de Villiers led a Toyota Gazoo Racing team 1-2-3 finish that included overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah on the ninth stage of the Dakar Rally on Tuesday.
Al-Attiyah gained back a minute on his nearest chaser, Sebastien Loeb, and extended his lead to 39 minutes with three stages to go in Saudi Arabia.
De Villiers, who has been runner-up five times since winning the 2009 Dakar, fell out of title contention on Sunday when an oil pump broke and he lost an hour. But he’s fifth overall and won a stage at a fifth straight Dakar.
Another South African, Henk Lategan, was nine seconds behind in second place, and Al-Attiyah a minute off. Loeb was fifth, two minutes behind after another puncture on a 287-kilometer loop course that started and ended in Wadi ad-Dawasir.
Loeb, the nine-time world rally champion, successfully fended off a time penalty for losing his last spare wheel while racing on Monday, after a puncture. Drivers are supposed to retrieve the wheel but organizers accepted his excuse that he didn’t know he lost it. He was only fined.
Meanwhile, Matthias Walkner grabbed the motorbike overall lead for the first time after Sam Sunderland, the stage opener, slumped in the second half.
Walkner, fresh from his second cross-country rallies world championship, has been in the top three for more than a week. The Austrian’s consistency paid off when he came fourth on the stage.
From four minutes behind overall, he’s two minutes in front of Sunderland. Adrien van Beveren of France was another two minutes back, and Pablo Quintanilla of Chile inside five minutes of the lead. Only Walkner and Sunderland in the top four have won the Dakar.
Jose Ignacio Cornejo of Chile won the stage, defending champion Kevin Benavides of Argentina was second, 1 1/2 minutes behind, and Ricky Brabec of the United States third after he led throughout the first half.