Nasser Al-Attiyah won a dramatic penultimate stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally, which saw several major contenders suffer bad luck on stage 13.
The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver set his fourth fastest time of the event finishing 11 minutes and 16 seconds ahead of the privately-run Toyota driven by Argentinean Lucio Alvarez.
Rally leader Carlos Sainz continued to cruise to the finish, his time was 19 minutes slower than Al-Attiyah’s, but his drive had become even more relaxed when his closest rival struck trouble.
Second place runner Stephane Peterhansel lost more than a hour when he clipped a hidden tree stump, damaging the suspension and steering rack.
After spending a hour repairing the damage the Frenchman finally got away but all hopes for a Peugeot 1-2 are gone.
Peterhansel’s problems means that Al-Attiyah now inherits second place while Peterhansel drops to fourth.
Berhard ten Brinke was on-course to take third only for heartbreak to strike late in the stage when he was forced to retire with engine troubles.
Therefore it was the third Toyota entry of Giniel de Villiers who was on hand to occupy the final podium place and is eight minutes clear of the delayed Peterhansel.
The top 10 was rounded out by Jakub Przygonski (MINI), Khalid Al Qassimi (Peugeot), Martin Prokop (Ford), Peter Van Merksteijn (Toyota), Sebastian Halpern (Toyota) and Alvarez.
There was no major upsets in the Bikes category as Toby Price roared to another stage victory while Matthias Walkner continued his cruise to the finish.
KTM rider Price finished the stage with a time of 4 hours and 48 minutes which was two and a half minutes quicker than Kevin Benavides, Walkner’s closest rival for victory.
Walkner played it safe throughout the stage and despite Benavides taking nine minutes out of his lead, the Austrian will start the final day with a 22 minute lead over his Argentine rival.
However on the final day it’ll be Benavides who will have to be looking over his shoulder as Price is now just five minutes behind him in third.
Local hero Jeremias González Ferioli grabbed his second stage win of the rally as he won the stage by over three minutes from Nelson Sanabria.
Ignacio Casale finished third in the stage four minutes behind the winner, but with a comfy 1 hour 37 minute lead over Nicolás Cavigliasso, the Chilean can afford to relax.
González Ferioli rounds out the podium in third, half a hour behind fellow Argentine Cavigliasso.
In the Trucks the exciting battle for the lead came to an end when Federico Villagra retired with mechanical problems all but gifting victory to arch-rival Eduard Nikolaev.
The two had started the day separated by just one second in the standings but early in the morning, Argentinian Villagra was forced to retire leaving Nikolaev well ahead out front as he went on to win the stage.
Second place is now taken by Belorusian driver MAZ trucker Siarhei Viazovich with Nikolaev’s Kamaz team-mate Ayrat Mardeev taking the final podium spot.
Patrice Garrouste won his fifth stage of the event beating main rival and rally leader Reinaldo Varela by ten minutes.
Yet Varela still holds a comfortable 53 minute lead over Garrouste heading into the final day.
In third place is Claude Fournier who is the only other classified runner.