Al-Attiyah storms Dakar canyon run

2018-01-09 08:32
Mini driver Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-pilot Matthieu Baumel of France (AP)

San Juan de Marcona - Two-time champion Nasser Al-Attiyah blew the field wide open at the Dakar Rally on Monday, powering his Toyota home four minutes faster than Stephane Peterhansel, although the Frenchman took the overall lead. 

Run over 500km of dirt and sand tracks through imposing Peruvian canyons from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona, the Qatari set the early pace opening a lead of two minutes after only 80km.

Al-Attiyah won the opening stage on Saturday, but suffered badly on Sunday when his co-driver fell sick after just 15km. 

The Toyota driver, also an Olympic shooting medallist, won the Dakar in 2011 and 2015 and laid down a solid marker here as the Peugeots struggled to follow him home. 

"We needed to push, but not really crazily. The road really isn't easy and is very dangerous in places," the Qatari said. 

"There's still a long way and we believe our Toyota Hilux is a very good car." 

Dakar specialist Peterhansel enjoyed a solid day and climbs top of the overall standings by 03min 11sec from Sunday's stage winner Cyril Despres, who lost almost eight minutes but avoided disaster and is second while Al-Attiyah storms up to third. 

It was a better day for Carlos Sainz, who suffered engine failure on day one. He finished third, 6min 07sec adrift. 

As ever there were mishaps aplenty, with former winner Nani Roma dramatically crashing out of the race only a kilometre from home. 

He lost control of his vehicle and was taken to hospital in Lima as a precaution, with his team Mini later confirming his withdrawal. 

Meanwhile, Argentine duo Alicia Reina and Carlos Pelayo escaped uninjured when their Toyota was engulfed in flames. 

Defending champion Sam Sunderland rode his KTM to a second stage victory from three in the motorbike section. 

The 28-year-old Briton covered the course in 3hr 20min 43sec, more than three minutes ahead of his two closest rivals - Honda's Argentine Kevin Benavides and his fellow KTM rider Toby Price of Australia. 

The feat saw Sunderland climb top of the overall standings, Sunday's stage winner Joan Barreda of Spain starting well but getting lost. 

Barreda came in nearly half an hour off Sunderland's mark after losing his way. 

"I didn't find a way-point and I had to go back for 15 kilometres to the way-point before, and go back almost 30 kilometres more," the Spaniard said, explaining he got lost because he was in the lead with no-one to follow. 

"I cannot make any more mistakes," he said. 

Tuesday's fourth of 14 stages is a mass start at the San Juan de Marcona beach but again over half of the 330km is sand, with dirt tracks through the steep hills behind it.

Read more on:    nasser al-attiyah  |  motorsport


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