Al-Attiyah claims third stage win, 'Mr Dakar' leads

Boris DESCARGUES
·3-min read

Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah won the third stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, holding off the challenge of French arch-rival and overall leader Stephane Peterhansel.

The three-time winner of the Dakar sped through a 403km loop around Wadi ad-Dawasir, the gateway to the Empty Quarter, a vast sand desert that covers much of the southern Arabian Peninsula, in 3hr 17min 39sec to take the victory.

Already winner of the prologue and Monday's second stage, Al-Attiyah finished 2:27 ahead of Toyota teammate Henk Lategan of South Africa.

"I’m quite happy," said Al-Attiyah, also an Olympic bronze medallist in the skeet at the 2012 London Games.

"Today we really pushed a lot and Mathieu (Baumel, co-pilot) did the navigation well. Everything is working very well like we need it to.

"I’m really quite happy with the pace, because to open and to win the stage is good."

Peterhansel, a 13-time Dakar winner, consolidated his lead in the overall standings with a third-placed finish, 4:05 off the pace.

The Frenchman, whose previous Dakar victories came seven times in a car and six on a motorbike and is nicknamed 'Mr Dakar', said a mixed terrain including big rocks, sandy canyons, dunes and a fast plateau had made it "a really complete stage".

"The result is not perfect because of the puncture," he said in reference to an early incident with his Mini.

"But I’m really happy with the job done by Edouard Boulanger, my co-pilot. In the complicated places, he did a really good job. I'm happy with the car and I'm happy with the co-pilot, so it's good for the next day."

The day's big loser was defending champion and Peterhansel's fellow Mini driver Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard losing his way at the 156km mark and straying 2km off course.

Sainz eventually finished the stage in 21st position and now stands fourth in the overall standings, more than 33 minutes off Peterhansel.

- Price reels in Benavides -

Two-time winner Toby Price clocked 3hr 33min 23sec in winning the motorbike category for his 13th Dakar stage win, the Australian KTM rider tracking down Argentinian Kevin Benavides (Honda) in a gripping race.

Price, winner of the Dakar in 2016 and 2019, finished just 1:16 ahead of Benavides -- later extended by a 2min penalty for the Argentine - and now sits third in the overall standings behind new American leader Skyler Howes and Frenchman Xavier de Soultrait.

"So far, it's been up and down. It's quite frustrating to be in front one day and then at the back the next," said Price.

"The difficulty of the navigation means it's hard to open the road. I'm going to have to do it tomorrow, but I hope there'll be a bit of respite and that it will be a day that's less complicated on the navigational front."

Price added: "It's been a good day for me. The bike's working well, I didn't fall and I didn't have any fuel problems like yesterday.

"Every day is going to count right up until the last one, but so far there have been no major problems."

Wednesday's fourth stage from Wadi Ad-Dawasir to Riyadh, at 813km the longest of this Dakar if the link sector is included, sees competitors racing a 337km special.

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