Toyota's driver Nasser Al Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel compete during the second stage of the Dakar 2023 rally between Sea Camp and Al Ula in Saudi Arabia on Monday. AFP
As many of his rivals were held up by a series of punctures, including Sebastien Loeb (Prodrive) who lost almost an hour and a half, the Qatari Al Attiyah ploughed to a provisional 14-second win over Erik Van Loon (Overdrive).
Carlos Sainz (Audi) was third man home, 5 minutes 5 seconds back, which was enough to give the Spaniard the lead in the provisional general classification, 2min 12sec ahead of Al Attiyah.
Mathieu Serradori (Century) is running third, 24min 55sec behind Sainz. "It was absolutely the time to attack and drive a good stage," said Al-Attiyah. "It was not an easy day. There were a lot of rocks and the navigation wasn't easy. We had one flat tyre, one puncture at the beginning, but after that we tried to be really careful in the stony places. In the sand we pushed and I'm quite happy."
Loeb's hopes of competing for a first ever Dakar title hang in the balance after a stage he described as a "car wreck". "The whole special was hell," said a stony-faced Loeb as he stepped out of his car which was missing its bonnet, torn off during an impact. "At the driving level, (it was) completely uninteresting, driving in rocks in slow motion, trying to cross without puncturing and, well, we had three punctures.
"We did everything to drive slowly but there was nothing we could do, it was not at all suitable for a car like ours." The nine-time world rally champion, who finished second last year, is now down in 31st in the overall standings 1hr 21min off the lead.
Meanwhile, American rider Mason Klein took the overall lead in the motorcycling category after winning Monday's stage.
"Most of the day I was just following the other guys and then at the last part they were making jokes about me leading out or not leading out and letting them all do the work," said Klein.
"So, I said, fine, I'll take my turn and I just left them and it was good." His compatriot Ricky Brabec had led overnight but could post only the 15th fastest time and was 8min 19sec slower than KTM rider Klein.
In spite of picking up a penalty, Klein timed 1min 9sec faster than Germany's Sebastien Buhler on the stage with another American Skyler Howes finishing third 1min 13sec adrift.
The 21-year-old Californian benefitted from some tactical slowing down from Australian rider Daniel Sanders who was comfortably leading the stage before opting to ease off in the last kilometres to avoid having to open the way on Tuesday.
"I was pushing a lot at the start to make up a lot of time and that was working, but then I knew we still had 200km to go, so I backed off a little bit and sat back for tomorrow and sit back in the pack," said the GasGas rider.
"There's no point, it's only the second day, to push and risk a lot, for opening tomorrow where anything can happen. "So, we'll see how the front guys go and hopefully I'll be in a good position at the back."
Klein, who finished ninth as a rooky in last year's edition, leads Toby Price of Australia, also riding a KTM, by 1min 41 sec with Spain's Honda rider Joan Barreda third 2min 3sec off the pace. Tuesday's stage will take the competitors on a picturesque 447km route from Al-Ula to Ha'il.
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
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.
"I am an amateur, I don't want to win but to discover landscapes that I would never have had the opportunity to see otherwise," he said earlier, according to the statement. "Everything is exciting: riding the bike, living your passion, getting to know yourself."
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.
Aryna Sabalenka is into her first Grand Slam final, where on Saturday she will face Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who earlier beat Victoria Azarenka in straight sets.
Azam was the only player to breach the 2000-run mark during the calendar year across all formats, and he did it in style as he broke past that milestone in style while amassing a whopping 2598 runs at an imposing average of 54.12.
"Alhamdulilah today was my Nikah. It is a big day in my life and the start of a new chapter. Please respect my choices and those of my wife and our families. Prayers and love for all," he wrote.