Stephane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger of France compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Stephane Peterhansel looks set to add anotehr feather to his cap by lifting a record 14th Dakar Rally title as he goes into the last stage with a whopping 15-minute lead.
Peterhansel is the most decorated driver at the Dakar Rally, having won an unprecedented 13 titles. His 14th win and record eighth in a car are pending on the last stage back to Jeddah, where the rally in Saudi Arabia started 11 days ago.
The Frenchman led the 11th stage from AlUla south to Yanbu beside the Red Sea through the middle section, and led title rival Nasser Al Attiyah by up to 3 1/2 minutes. But Attiyah, a three-time champion, overcame his own punctures to win his sixth stage. However, the Qatari gained only 1 minute, 56 seconds
on second-placed Peterhansel.
"We lost just a few minutes, it's nothing,” Peterhansel said. "There's only one day to go ... it's time to cross fingers and hope that we will be in first place at the end.”
Defending champion Carlos Sainz was third on the stage and remained third overall, more than an hour behind. Kevin Benavides of Argentina looks set to win his first dakar title after holding off Honda teammate Ricky Brabec, the defending motorbike champion from the US. Brabec, who started the stage only 51 seconds and second behind Benavides overall, ended it seven minutes behind and third.
Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger in action during stage 11. Reuters
They rode the last 200 kilometres together and opened the way after teammate and Spanish rider Joan Barreda ran out of petrol. Barreda, who started the stage fourth overall, missed a refueling station and lasted only another 50 kilometres, until around 267 kilometres in.
He called for medical assistance and was airlifted out. "Tomorrow we will push like every day, no other strategy than that,” Benavides said. "There are no team orders.”
Benavides’ closest rival became stage winner Sam Sunderland of Britain, the 2017 champion. He clawed back six minutes to lie only four minutes behind going into the last stage.
Attiyah said: "It was a good last stage and completely different to the first three. It was all gravel through the mountains. It was fantastic and we are obviously very happy with the result.
The 55-year-old Mini driver, aided by co-pilot Edouard Boulanger, finished 14min 51sec ahead of Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota), with Spain's Carlos Sainz — winner of Friday's 12th and final stage from Yanbu to Jeddah — rounding out the podium in another Mini.
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 Stephane Peterhansel. The three-time winner of the Dakar sped through a 403km loop around
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