BISHA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — French rider Adrian van Beveren became the Dakar Rally’s last motorcycle rider as the overall lead changed for the fourth straight day after Stage 10 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Nasser Al-Attiyah took advantage of what he called a perfect car to stay more than half an hour ahead of Sébastien Loeb with two stages to go in Saudi Arabia.
“We are getting there bit by bit,” said Al-Attiyah, eyeing his fourth Dakar title.
Van Beveren fell out of the overall virtual top three on the bike halfway through the canyon-filled 375-kilometre stage between Wadi ad-Dawasir and Bisha, until late navigation errors from rally leaders Matthias Walkner d Austria and Great Britain’s Sam Sunderland are costing them dearly. minutes.
Suddenly, Van Beveren is propelled virtually into the lead, confirmed after finishing third in the stage won by former double champion Toby Price, followed by Lucio Benavides.
Van Beveren has crashed in the last four Dakars but has prepared his Yamaha particularly hard in recent months in search of his first Dakar victory.
He is five minutes ahead of Pablo Quintanilla of Chile, six minutes ahead of Sunderland and more than eight minutes ahead of Walkner and Joan Barreda of Portugal, who suffered from a shoulder injury but remained in contention despite having twice lost on the stage.
A new champion on Friday was guaranteed after 2021 winner Kevin Benavides, who started the day fifth overall, suffered a mechanical problem a third of the way through and retired.
In the cars, Al-Attiyah lost more than six minutes to his lead over Loeb – including a five-minute penalty for not wearing his seatbelt briefly on Monday – but still considered it a good daytime. His Toyota leads by nearly 33 minutes overall.
“I said I don’t want to take any risks, I just want to set a high pace,” said the Qatari. “We are not here to win stages. Last year we took seven (stages) and finished second, this time we only won two and are leading.
Loeb, the nine-time world rally champion in search of his first Dakar title, was proud to have pushed his Prodrive hard again but frustrated that the gain over the 85-second course was so small. He finished the stage fifth.
“The gap (overall) is too big and the race is out of our hands, but we’re still hanging on,” Loeb said.
The stage was won by Stephane Peterhansel, who beat local team-mate Carlos Sainz by two minutes to claim his 82nd career stage win and 49th in a car, one on Ari Vatanen’s 18-year-old record.
Peterhansel, the 2021 champion, has been out of the race since a major navigational error on day two. But he was delighted with this third victory for Audi after team-mates Sainz on stage three and Mattias Ekstrom on stage eight validated their electric car.
“It’s good for morale, especially because it comes after a complicated start to the rally,” said the most successful competitor in the history of the Dakar Rally. “We have to win in 2023. Failure is not an option.”
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