Al-Attiyah Closes Gap With One Stage To Go

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Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel in the Toyota Hilux of Toyota Gazoo Racing during the 11th stage of the Dakar Rally. (Red Bull Content Pool photo)
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel in the Toyota Hilux of Toyota Gazoo Racing during the 11th stage of the Dakar Rally. (Red Bull Content Pool photo)

YANBU, Saudia Arabia — Nasser Al-Attiyah reduced Stéphane Peterhansel’s car lead during the 11th and penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally on Thursday.

Qatar’s Al-Attiyah, who won the opening prologue, has now added a fifth stage win to his 2021 tally nevertheless he still remains 15 minutes and five seconds behind Peterhansel in his quest for a fourth Dakar title.

Peterhansel finished second to boost his chance of a record 14th title, while reigning champion Carlos Sainz was third including an extra blast of desert sun when the roof of his MINI Buggy was removed.

Al-Attiyah, 50, explained: “I’m really happy to be here on day 11 without any technical problems with the car. There’s still one stage to go and we will see what the next day brings.”

British biker Sam Sunderland produced a superb ride to give himself a chance of victory on Friday’s final stage.

Sunderland has kept plugging away at Argentine Kevin Benavides’ overall bike lead and he won today’s stage to cut the deficit to just four minutes and 12 seconds.

Sunderland, 31, who drew level with Benavides overall at one point, revealed: “I knew that today was one of my last chances to try to win. I gave my all, all day. I didn’t manage to take quite enough time, but I’m happy.”

Australian rookie Daniel Sanders finished fourth with 2018 champion Matthias Walkner fifth.

In the Lightweight Vehicle category, rookie Seth Quintero powered to another stage victory by an impressive 12 minutes and 13 seconds over Chilean Chaleco Lopez  – who extended his overall lead as Quintero’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Cristina Gutiérrez finished 30 minutes back on the day.

American Quintero, 18, said: “Today went absolutely amazing. Our plan was to pick cars off all day and run smooth and that’s exactly what we did. We end up as the first over the line and the first on time. It blows my mind how well this Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team works.”

Finally in the truck category, Russian Anton Shibalov grabbed his second stage victory with a four minute and 13 second gap to compatriot Ayrat Mardeev with Andrey Karginov fourth and Dmitry Sotnikov fifth as Sotnikov holds a huge 39 minute and 58 second advantage over Shibalov overall.