Published on : 14/01/2021 – 19:04Modified : 14/01/2021 – 19:03
Yanbu (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)
Leader overall in cars, Stéphane Peterhansel (Mini) is aware of having “never been so close” to a 14th title on the Dakar, at the end of the 11th and penultimate stage on Thursday, which left everyone behind. suspense for motorcycles.
“We had another big day, we dreaded it anyway because it was announced as the most difficult of the rally. At the end we lose two minutes so we really limit the damage”, explains Stéphane calmly. Peterhansel, alias “Monsieur Dakar”, second in the day’s special behind his runner-up, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota).
A title would be the 14th for the French, thirty years after his first coronation, on a motorcycle in 1991.
At the end of this 490-kilometer stage between Al Ula and Yanbu in Saudi Arabia, the Frenchman has a 15-minute and 5-second mattress over Nasser Al-Attiyah. “We start second tomorrow (note: Tuesday, the winner of the stage opens the way), it is still a good position to start. In strategy, it’s perfect”, confesses the pilot known for his cold blood.
– The Sainz accolade –
Back at the bivouac, the hug that the Spanish title holder Carlos Sainz gave him when he got out of the car, looked like a handover. Barring a huge disaster during the 12th and final stage of this 43rd edition of the Dakar, Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger should be crowned in 2021.
But there are still 225 kilometers of special to go between Yanbu and Jeddah. But “things can change quickly, 120 kilometers from the finish we were ahead of Nasser, we had overtaken him, we had taken some time back from him and then things were reversed in the last 120 km”, said the driver.
Nasser Al-Attiyah edged Peterhansel by 1 min 56 sec and Carlos Sainz (Mini) by 2 min 26 sec. The Qatari has a total of six successes in this Dakar-2021 including the prologue, but could not cope with the consistency of Stéphane Peterhansel in his Mini buggy: apart from the prologue, the Frenchman’s worst result is a 4th place in step 4.
Behind the two leading men in the general, “El Matador”, Carlos Sainz is 3rd at 1 hour 04 minutes and 14 seconds. All the other competitors are relegated to more than 2 hours.
– Indecision on a motorcycle –
In motorcycles, however, the battle remains open and the last stage will decide the winner, the first three being held in less than ten minutes.
By winning the eleventh and penultimate stage on Thursday, the Briton Sam Sunderland (KTM) had a good job in the general classification of the motorcycle category. Sunderland completed the 470 km long stage in 4 h 35 min 12 sec.
The 31-year-old driver, whose 8th participation in the Dakar, has taken advantage of the misadventures of the Honda drivers. Refueling failed and out of fuel for Joan Barreda, followed by a retirement, and navigation error for the American Ricky Brabec.
But everything remains very tight in the standings before the return to Jeddah. The Argentinian Kevin Benavides remains leader, but has only 4 min 12 seconds ahead of Sunderland, while the American Ricky Brabec (Honda), winner of the event in 2020, fell to 3rd place, to 7 min 13 sec from Benavides.
© 2021 AFP