Nasser Al-Attiyah brushed off two punctures to record his third stage win of the 2018 Dakar Rally and cement his third place in the standings.
Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Al-Attiyah completed the 723-kilometre stage with a time of five hours forty-eight minutes, which was two minutes quicker than second fastest runner Peugeot’s Stephane Peterhansel.
This was despite finishing the stage with two flat tyres which the Qatari reckoned lost him around four minutes.
For rally leader Carlos Sainz Sr., caution was the key word as the Spaniard was determined not to fall foul of a navigational or driving error.
As a result Sainz set the ninth fastest time, eighteen minutes slower than Al-Attiyah, but he still maintains a significant lead of more than forty-four minutes over Peugeot team-mate Peterhansel.
With just two days left to run Peterhansel has all but conceded victory and his main focus is securing a Peugeot 1-2.
Al-Attiyah’s Toyota team-mate Giniel de Villiers set the third fastest time ahead of X-Raid MINI driver Orlando Terranova and yesterday’s stage winner Toyota driver Bernhard Ten Brinke.
Ten Brinke’s time was a set back in his quest to challenge team-mate Al-Attiyah for third, but is now far from safe from de Villiers who is only nine minutes behind in fifth.
The top 10 was rounded out by Jakub Przygonski (MINI), Khalid Al Qassimi (Peugeot), Martin Prokop (Ford), Peter Van Merksteijn (Toyota) and Sebastian Halpern (Toyota).
The stage was cancelled for Bike and Quads crews which relieved the pressure on the respective category leaders Matthias Walkner and Ignacio Casale.
The most exciting battle in the Rally was for the lead in the Trucks category as Eduard Nikolaev snatched back the lead he’d lost to Federico Villagra, but only by the smallest of margins.
Iveco trucker Villagra started the day with small lead of one minute and seven seconds over the Kamaz trucker and during the day the two equalled each other with the lead swapping back and forth at each checkpoint.
Yet at the end of the day Nikolaev had re-taken the rally lead, but only by one second over his Argentine rival in the rally’s closest battle.
While the top two were engaged in their own private battle, Ton van Genugten went on to claim stage victory having finally got the better of Tatra trucker Martin Kolomy during the final section.
The final spot on the podium is held by Belarus driver MAZ trucker Siarhei Viazovich.
Reinaldo Varela took a crucial step in securing victory in the SXS class by winning the stage eighteen minutes ahead of his closest rival Patrice Garrouste on a day which saw the elimination of several category runners..
Varela lead throughout the day and was aided by problems for Garrouste who dropped back throughout the stage eventually recording the slowest time of the remaining riders.
Varela now holds a lead of over an hour over Garrouste, in who turn has a eight hour advantage over new third place runner Jose Luis Pena Campo.