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Al-Attiyah stretches Dakar lead in pursuit of third title

Nasser Al-Attiyah takes charge of the Dakar Rally © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

AREQUIPA, Peru, Jan 10Two-time champion Nasser al-Attiyah extended his lead in the Dakar Rally on Thursday, winning the fourth stage between Arequipa and Tacna.

Qatari driver al-Attiyah, the 2011 and 2015 champion, had already won the first stage of this year’s event on Monday behind the wheel of his Toyota.

On Thursday, he edged out 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel, in a Mini, by 1min 52sec and Jakub Przygonski, also in a Mini, by 8min 49sec.

Overall, al-Attiyah leads Peterhansel by 8min 55sec ahead of the fifth stage between Tacna and Arequipa.

“I’m pretty happy. I won the stage and it was very important to stay close to Stephane Peterhansel as there is still a long way to go before the end,” said al-Attiyah.

Meanwhile, nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, who won the second stage on Tuesday, suffered three punctures and finished 12min 23sec behind al-Attiyah.

The Frenchman, driving a private entry Peugeot, is sixth overall, more than 50 minutes behind the Qatari.

“It was a very complicated stage and it’s shame because the rhythm was very good,” he said.

In the motorcycling race, America’s Ricky Brabec took the stage and top spot in the overall standings on his Honda, finishing 6min 19sec ahead of Austria’s Matthias Walkner and 7min 7sec in front of Australia’s Toby Price.

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Overall, the Californian enjoys a 2min 19sec advantage over previous leader Pablo Quintanilla of Chile while he has a 4min 22sec edge on Price.

Thursday’s win for Brabec was particularly uplifting as he had got lost on Wednesday’s third stage.

“I needed it. Yesterday was tough on me and I lost a lot of time,” he said.

“My body is still 100%, the bike is still 100%. We’ll go back and do a quick review of the bike and then put it to sleep for the night.”

Defending champion Walkner fears his race may be over after suffering a nasty fall on the stage.

“Fifty kilometres before the end I did a big jump and landed heavily. First I was thinking, OK, maybe it’s broken. It’s really painful now,” said the Austrian.

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