Stéphane Peterhansel has edged closer to recording his 14th Dakar Rally victory after finishing third fastest on stage 10, which was won by Yazeed Al Rajhi.
X-raid Mini JCW’s Peterhansel lost 49 seconds to closest overall classification rival, Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, and holds a 17-minute advantage with just two stages remaining.
It was the second stage win of the year for Al Rajhi, who drives an Overdrive Racing-run Toyota Hilux, and it was secured in comfortable fashion.
Al Rajhi finished a full two minutes clear of Al-Attiyah on the 212.5-mile Neom-Al-Ula test, despite getting a puncture close to the finish, having held the lead at all but one waypoint.
Peterhansel’s team-mate Carlos Sainz is effectively out of the running for overall victory, after finishing over a minute adrift of the Frenchman after struggling with navigation at the start of the stage. He is now 1h03m44s off the lead.
“Navigation was tough on the first part of the stage and we lost a lot of time,” Sainz said.
“It got better after that, but I spent a lot of time driving through dust and had to overtake five or six cars. It was not an easy day for me.”
Al Rajhi was in the mix all stage and trailed the early pacesetter Yasir Seaidan’s Century CR6 by just 16 seconds at the first waypoint after 28 miles.
The opening sections of the stage took competitors through a mix of soil and sandy tracks and reaching an altitude of almost 1200 meters.
Seaidan soon fell by the wayside, hitting mechanical trouble not long after waypoint four and is yet to complete the stage.
Al Rajhi, who finished fourth in stage nine, then gapped Al-Attiyah by 1m30s by waypoint two. While the pace of those behind never seriously threatened Al Rajhi, the Saudi did suffer a puncture in the closing sections, going down to the rim at the finish.
“We went fast, and Dirk also did a great job,” Al Rajhi said.
“However, with 30 km to go, we had a flat tyre. We decided to push on, reasoning that we were almost there. The tyre ended up torn to pieces, but we finished with it. It was risky, but we wanted to win.”
Trailing Peterhansel by nearly 18 minutes at the start of the day, Al-Attiyah knew he needed to take chunks of time out of his X-raid Mini rival.
The Qatari, alongside co-driver Mathieu Baumel, was faster than Peterhansel but the time gain was negligible in the wider overall fight and now Al-Attiyah has his work cut out to make it a fourth Dakar triumph come Friday.
After a poor stage nine, Jakub Przygónski bounced back in style in the second Overdrive Toyota, setting the fifth quickest time and a fraction over five off behind Al Rajhi.
Al-Attiyah’s TGR team-mate Giniel de Villiers also enjoyed a positive stage in his Hilux, going sixth fastest, ahead of X-raid Team’s Vladimir Vasilyev.
Tuesday’s star performer Mathieu Serradori was eighth quickest on the stage in his SRT Racing Century CR6. The Frenchman, alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin, broke a steering ball joint near the end of the ninth stage while on course to set the fastest time.
The pair finished nine minutes behind Al Rajhi upon arrival in Al-Ula.
Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) and Nani Roma (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) completed the top 10 in the stage.
The overall standings remain largely the same with Peterhansel holding a commanding advantage over Al-Attiyah and Sainz, while Przygónski is the best-placed privateer in fourth.
Roma maintains a strong fifth for Bahrain Raid Xtreme, some 23 minutes clear of Abu Dhabi Racing’s Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi.
Vasilyev is less than two minutes behind Al Qassimi in seventh, while de Villiers and Martin Prokop are separated by a similar margin in the battle for eighth.
After his second stage win of the Dakar, Al Rajhi’s climb back up the order means he is now 13th heading into the penultimate stage on Thursday.
Stage 11 of this year’s Dakar will be the longest individual test of the event, totalling a mammoth 317 miles of timed special stage. It has been described by many as the most challenging of the rally and will provide a stern test of endurance and concentration ahead of the final stage on Friday.
Jones fights back as lead SSV gap down to 10 minutes
Austin Jones closed the gap to T4 leader Francisco Lopez Contardo in the SSV category to just 10 minutes ahead of the penultimate stage of the rally after finished second to Snag Racing Team’s Sergei Kariakin.
Last year’s runner-up Kariakin started 33rd on the road but quickly made the most of his favorable position on the stage to lie just 14 seconds behind the leading T3 of Kris Meeke.
The Russian then hit the front at waypoint five as Meeke fell back, with Kariakin duly finishing just under half a minute clear of Jones.
Jones was third at the first waypoint, 31 seconds behind Meeke, and fell to over a minute adrift of the former WRC driver approaching half-distance. But a strong second half of the test not only reduced the deficit to the top, but more importantly meant he gapped Lopez Contardo by 2m39s.
Meeke was the fastest T3 with seventh overall on the stage, with PH Sport Zephyr team-mate Lionel Baud second. Josef Machacek continues to lead the class ahead of X-raid’s Camelia Liparoti.
Stage 10 (Neom – Al-Ula) result
1 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Overdrive Racing Toyota) 3h03m57s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2m04s
3 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) +2m53s
4 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +4m12s
5 Jakub Przygónski/Timo Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +5m06s
6 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro Bravo (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +6m12s
7 Vladimir Vasilyev/DmitroTsyro (X-raid Mini JCW) +7m32s
8 Mathieu Serradori/Fabian Lurquin (SRT Racing) +9m08s
9 Brian Baragwanath/Taye Perry (Century Racing CR6) +9m36s
10 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +10m37s
Overall classification after Stage 10
1 Peterhansel/Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 37h33m06s
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +17m01s
3 Sainz/Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +1h03m44s
4 Przygónski/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +2h18m43s
5 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +2h50m22s
6 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +3m13m14s
7 Vasilyev/Tsyro (X-raid Mini JCW) +3h14m56s
8 de Villiers/Haro (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +3h43m28s
9 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team Ford) +3h45m46s
10 Lavieille/Garcin (MD Rally Sport Optimus) +4h30m52s