Three-time Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah held his nerve on Monday’s Stage Two to claw back time on rivals Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz in the car standings as Russian Dmitry Sotnikov extended his truck lead.
– Stage Two served up dunes for the first time from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir and featured 457km against the clock with the change of terrain having a massive impact on the leaderboards.
– Al-Attiyah hit back from a difficult Sunday Stage One – where he finished 10th – to win on Monday by two minutes and 35 seconds from Frenchman Peterhansel with defending champion Sainz just under 10 minutes back from the Qatari driver on the day.
– Al-Attiyah, 50, who lies nine minutes and 14 seconds back from 13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel, revealed: “Yesterday we lost a lot of time because we opened the stage and it was so tough. Today we went flat out from start to finish and everything worked really well.”
– Kuba Przygoński and Sébastien Loeb have established themselves in the Top 10, while 2009 champion Giniel De Villiers and Cyril Despres remain in the hunt.
– The truck category saw Russian Sotnikov extend his lead to 17m14s from Belarus’ Siarhei Viazovich after he won by 4m17s on the day over compatriot and fellow Kamaz Master driver Airat Mardeev with Ignacio Casale seventh overall on his return to trucks.
– The lead changed hands in the Lightweight Vehicles category with Chile’s Chaleco López now holding top spot with Cristina Gutiérrez down to fourth overall.
– Gutiérrez’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team drivers Seth Quintero and Mitch Guthrie Jr. completed the stage, as did DTM and WRX star Mattias Ekström.
– Lopez, 45, said: “I got stuck in the dunes at the beginning of the stage, but then I was able to pass the leading riders on the fast section.”
– It was a tough day for former bike champions Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner as they all lost ground with Austrian Walkner over two hours back.
– Australian Price faced navigation challenges, then suffered a fuel tank issue while Briton Sunderland conceded over 20 minutes to leader Joan Barreda.
– Two-time winner Price, 33, explained: “I had to conserve fuel because I only had my front tanks. It was tough, but it’s something we can sort out tonight.”
– Sunderland, 31, added: “It’s not easy to have a mistake free run. There’s so many canyons out there and if miss the entrance of the right one by 30 metres you end up in the wrong canyon.”
– Spaniard Laia Sanz – the top placed female biker at the previous 10 editions – is out to keep her impressive record intact while Daniel Sanders, Stefan Svitko, Camille Chapelière, CS Santosh and Mohammed Jaffar are still on course to match their personal goals at the 2021 Dakar.
– There are more dunes in Tuesday’s Stage Three as the 403km timed special stage will skirt the edges of the notorious Empty Quarter desert before returning to the Wadi Ad-Dawasir bivouac.
Overall ranking after stage 2
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) X-Raid Mini 07h17m18s
2. Carlos Sainz (ESP) X-Raid Mini +00h06m37s
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo +00h09m14s
1. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP) Honda 08h15m38s
2. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda +00h06m23s
3. Ross Branch (BWA) Yamaha +00h06m37s
1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) Kamaz Master 08h01m39s
2. Siarhei Viazovich (BLR) Maz Sportauto +00h17m14s
3. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz Master +00h22m03s
1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL) Can-Am 08h58m13s
2. Aron Domzala (POL) Can-Am +00h00m39s
3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP) Can-Am +00h01m01s