It was Stephane Peterhansel’s day on the 11th stage of the Dakar Rally, but X-Raid Mini teammate Carlos Sainz moved to the brink of victory in the marathon’s first run in Saudi Arabia by placing third.
Peterhansel (pictured) edged defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah by just 10 seconds as they both pared eight minutes off Sainz’s lead on the 236-mile marathon special from Shubaytah back to Haradh. But with his Spanish teammate still holding a 10-minute lead heading into the final day, 13-time Dakar champ Peterhansel admitted his hopes of another victory are all but over.
“It’s so hard to gain minutes under normal circumstances! On the other hand, navigational mistakes have led to big gaps,” conceded the Frenchman, who along with Al-Attiyah lost a lot of time to those yesterday. “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.”
Toyota’s Al-Attiyah. too, admitted he was racing for second place — which he holds by just 6s over Peterhansel after nearly 49 hours of competitive stages.
“We paid dearly for our mistake yesterday. Now we’ll battle Stephane for second place. Making it so far is already great, there’s one stage to go and we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
Al-Attiyah’s teammate Fernando Alonso rebounded from his troubled run on Wednesday to finish eighth in a stage he started in 113th place, and continued to move up the Dakar learning curve.
“Yesterday we had a low-speed roll-over; it was not big. We finished the stage with no issues. Today we had no issues. It was a good marathon stage,” related the two-time F1 world champion and Le Mans winner. “In the first leg we lost a bit of time, but these things can happen to anyone. The second leg was OK today, more sandy. Starting 113th in the classification didn’t help. I’m very happy. You learn things every day. One day left to finish my first Dakar.”
“Chaleco” Lopez dominated in SSV today, winning by 10 minutes over Aron Domzala, but America’s Casey Currie still holds a comfortable lead of 45m in the general classification with one stage to go.
In bikes, Pablo Quintanilla cut into Ricky Brabec’s overall lead with a stage win on his Husqvarna, but the American Honda rider takes a lead of nearly 14 minutes into the final stage despite a cautious 10th-place result today.
In quads, Ignacio Casale followed home Rafal Sonik in the penultimate stage, and leads by 21 minutes, while in trucks, Andrey Karaganov underlined his superiority with another stage win — his sixth — over Kamaz teammate Dimitri Sotnikov, and leads by a staggering 1h27m overall.