Al-Rajhi shakes off flat tire for Dakar stage 10 win

Al-Rajhi shakes off flat tire for Dakar stage 10 win

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Al-Rajhi shakes off flat tire for Dakar stage 10 win

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Saudi Arabia’s local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi came on strong in the closing portion of today’s 10th stage of the marathon — a 342km/213-mile run through the sand between spectacular rockpiles from Neom on the Red Sea to Al-Ula — to take his second stage win in the car category, but it took a risky gamble to close the deal. The Overdrive Toyota driver pushed on to the finish on a flat tire.

“We went fast, and Dirk (von Zitzewitz, navigator) also did a great job. However, with 30 km to go, we had a flat tire,” related Al-Rajhi. “We decided to push on, reasoning that we were almost there. The tire ended up torn to pieces, but we finished with it. It was risky, but we wanted to win. We thought that stopping would cost us 1m20s, whereas easing up a little might only cost us 45s.”

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah — driving a similar Toyota Hilux for Toyota Gazoo Racing — finished second, 2m04s behind, leading home overall Dakar leader Stephane Peterhansel (X Raid MINI JCW) by 49s to close the gap to the Frenchman. However, he still trails by 17 minutes with just two stages remaining.

“Navigating wasn’t easy, but I’m rather happy the stage went without a hitch,” said Al-Attiyah. “I think tomorrow will decide the Dakar. It’s going to be a tricky stage, but we’ll do our best. There’s no strategy — we’ll just keep driving fast. Of course, Stephane is under the most pressure because he’s the leader, but I’m also under pressure: If I can’t make it, I’ll finish second.”

In the bike category, America’s Ricky Brabec (pictured above) claimed top honors by 3m15s over Monster Energy Honda teammate Joan Barreda. The win pulled the reigning Dakar champ up to second overall, 51s behind Argentina’s Kevin Benavides in another Monster Energy Honda, after their previously leading teammate ‘Nacho’ Cornejo crashed out.

“I’m sure Nacho has a lot of pressure. Leading the Dakar is not easy,” sympathized Brabec. “I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure from the team, but for a personal goal I think he has a lot of pressure. He’s a young kid, he’s been riding well all week — he’s been surprising everybody. He’s the best navigator at this rally. We all know we all wanna win. Winning is the best thing there is in life. There’s no real team orders.”

In the SSV category, Sergey Karyakin took his first stage win, leading home America’s Austin Jones by 30s. Class leader Francisco Lopez finished sixth and saw his overall lead over Monster Energy Can-Am rider Jones reduced to 29s. America’s Pablo Copetti won the stage in the quad class to pull himself up to fourth overall, as Argentina’s Manuel Andujar — third on today’s stage — still enjoys a lead of 21m. Martin Macík took his second consecutive stage win in trucks by a 1m40s over Dimitry Sotnikov, although the Russian Kamaz driver remains comfortably ahead overall by 47m.

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