AFP/Neom, Saudi Arabia
Qatari driver Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah won stage eight of the Dakar Rally yesterday while nine-time rally world champion Sebastien Loeb was forced out after two punctures.
Three-time Dakar winner al-Attiyah covered the 375 kilometres of the timed special between Sakaka and Neom in Saudi Arabia in just under three hours.
He has won four of eight stages of this year’s edition as well as the prologue but trails Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel in overall rankings by 4min 50sec.
Since his first special win in Nema, Mauritania, in 2007, there has not been a single Dakar where al-Attiyah has not tasted victory on at least one stage, a feat which no other driver has achieved over 14 consecutive editions in the history of the rally.
On the way to Neom, the Qatari driver picked up the 40th stage victory of his career and is now in 3rd position on the roll of honour for stage wins, with Peterhansel (47) and Ari Vatanen (50) in his sights.
Last year’s winner Carlos Sainz finished 52sec behind al-Attiyah along the Red Sea coastline, with Peterhansel third as he stayed on course to capture a record-extending 14th Dakar title.
Sainz is third overall at 38min 55sec ahead of today’s ninth stage, a 579km loop on sandy tracks around Neom that should be one of the toughest of the rally.
Loeb, taking part in his fifth Dakar, suffered his first puncture 43 kilometres into the stage. After he blew another tyre at kilometre 83, the Frenchman signalled his retirement to his team, the British outfit BRX.
This year’s Dakar had not been a kind one to Loeb, who had been beset with mechanical problems and was more than 13 hours behind his compatriot Peterhansel.
Chile’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo extended his advantage in the motorbike category with his first stage victory.
Cornejo gained over a minute on nearest rival Toby Price, having led by just one second on Sunday.
American Ricky Brabec, winner of the 2020 rally, was almost three minutes adrift in third.
French rider Xavier de Soultrait withdrew following a heavy crash. He was taken to hospital in Tabuk for observation.
De Soultrait was among the favourites and briefly occupied first place last week following stage four. He was fourth overall when he crashed.
Britain’s Sam Sunderland is third overall, 5min 57sec off the pace after crossing fourth in Monday’s special, with Brabec in sixth at 17min 42sec.
STAGE 8 RESULTS
Cars (top 10)
1. Nasser al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Toyota) 2:56:56
2. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (ESP/ESP/Mini) +00:52
3. Stephane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (FRA/FRA/Mini) +3:03
4. Sheikh Khalid al-Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (UAE/FRA/Peugeot) +12:44
5. Cyril Despres/Michael Horn (FRA/SUI/Peugeot) +12:49
6. Jakub Przygonski/Timo Gottschalk (POL/GER/Toyota) +18:23
7. Shameer Variawa/Dennis Murphy (RSA/RSA/Toyota) +18:51
8. Vladimir Vasilyev/Dmitro Tsyro (RUS/UKR/Mini) +19:05
9. Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (CZE/CZE/Ford) +21:37
10. Christian Lavieille/Jean-Pierre Garcin (FRA/FRA/Optimus) +22:06
Overall standings (top 3)
1. Stephane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (FRA/FRA/Mini) 29:36:49 (1min penalty)
2. Nasser al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA/Toyota) +4:50
3. Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (ESP/ESP/Mini) +38:55
Bikes (top 10)
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHI/Honda) 3:08:40
2. Toby Price (AUS/Ktm) +1:05
3. Ricky Brabec (USA/Honda) +2:50
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR/Ktm) +3:46
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG/Honda) +5:29
6. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP/Honda) +5:47
7. Daniel Sanders (AUS/Ktm) +6:29
8. Matthias Walkner (AUT/Ktm) +6:32
9. Skyler Howes (USA/Ktm) +6:53
10. Sebastian Bühler (GER/Hero) +7:58
Overall standings (top 3)
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHI/Honda) 32:00:11
2. Toby Price (AUS/Ktm) +1:06
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR/Ktm) +5:57
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