Naser Al-Attiyah claimed his second win of the 2016 Dakar Rally on Thursday, although the race is still Stephane Peterhansel’s to lose.
The Mini driver finished ahead of Sebastien Loeb, who had to be towed to the finish line by Cyril Despres after his car stopped just a few kilometres from the end.
Mikko Hirvonen was third, followed by Rally leader Peterhansel, who lost eight minutes to Al-Attiyah but still leads the Qatari driver by 51m55s overall with just two stages of this year’s race remaining.
Loeb and Peterhansel were closely matched throughout the early stages of the day’s 431-km special, although Al-Attiyah gradually took over later in the day and had opened up a 1m38s lead over Loeb by the fourth and final control point, and almost five minutes over Peterhansel.
Loeb’s day nearly ended in disaster when he came to a halt near the end, but luckily for him, Despres was nearby and towed him the last couple of kms, assuring he would hold on to second place for the day.
Meanwhile, Toby Price remains in firm control of the bikes category after extending his overall lead to over 35 minutes following a second-place finish on Thursday.
Price finished just 18 seconds behind stage winner Antoine Meo, ensuring his lead over second-placed Stefan Svitko, who came in more than 12 minutes behind in seventh, increased even further.
“We’re another day closer, but for sure, it’s been a hard one. I can’t smell victory yet, not yet. I won’t smell victory until I cross the finishing line on the last day,” said Price.
“It’s been hard on the bikes today. There’s been a lot of hot weather. The bike is still going really well, there’s no water leaking or anything. It still feels strong, so we’re in a good spot.”
Conditions got so tough for the men on the bikes and quads that the special was eventually called off due to excessive heat, although by that time the frontrunners had already completed the stage and their times were subsequently made official.
Crossing the line first among the trucks was Eduard Nikolaev, five minutes clear of Pieter Versluis and a further 34 seconds ahead of Ton van Genugten.
Gerard de Rooy was only sixth-quickest on the day but is still in total command at the top of the general classification, leading Airat Mardeev by over an hour and Federico Villagra by a further 35 minutes.