Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah slashed 10-time champion Stephane Peterhansel’s Dakar Rally lead by over eight minutes on Thursday as the 2011 winner stormed to victory on the sixth stage.
Al-Attiyah started the day at nine minutes, 54 seconds behind defending champion Peterhansel, but finished just one minute, 18 seconds off the overall lead, winning his third stage of this year’s event, a 438km special from Arica to Calama.
The Qatari, in a Buggy, clocked four hours, 52 minutes with Peterhansel, in a Mini, in second spot ahead of US NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, who was nearly 14 minutes behind al-Attiyah.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers, driving a Toyota, was sixth to stay third overall, 42 minutes behind the leader.
However, al-Attiyah’s 17th career Dakar stage win was tempered when it was revealed teammate Carlos Sainz, the 2010 champion, had been forced to retire.
The Spaniard, who won the first two stages before falling badly off the pace, was forced out when the engine in his Buggy failed at the 179km mark.
KTM rider Francisco Lopez celebrated the arrival of the race in his native Chile by clinching his third win on this year’s event in the motorcycling section.
Olivier Pain still leads the overall standings with a two minutes, 22 seconds lead over four-time winner and defending champion Cyril Despres with a third Frenchman, David Casteu, in third, four minutes, 48 seconds off the lead.
“The first part of the special went very well, but on the second section, the engine lost a fair bit of power and I started wondering whether it was a fuel problem or due to the altitude,” Lopez said.
Earlier in the day two people were killed and seven others were injured in a head-on collision between a Dakar Rally support vehicle and a taxi near Peru’s border with Chile, race organizers reported.
One of two taxis hit the support vehicle head-on, while a second cab overturned as its driver tried to avoid the collision.
Two people in the first taxi, including the driver, were killed and seven people, four of them Peruvian, were injured.
Three of the injured, who were traveling in a Land Rover support vehicle, were British members of the Race2Recovery team, which is made up of British and US servicemen who have been severely injured and lost limbs in foreign conflicts.
All three were flown by an Antonov aircraft to hospital in Lima where they were said to be “stable and conscious” with “non-life-threatening” injuries.