RIYAD, Saudi Arabia (AP) – A navigation error by SÃ©bastien Loeb allowed Nasser Al-Attiyah to extend his lead to 49 minutes halfway through the Dakar rally on Friday.
Loeb took the start of the sixth stage, a loop course east of Riyadh, 35 minutes from second overall, but lost his bearings with Henk Lategan, the fifth stage winner, at around one third of the 348-kilometer special.
After two-thirds of the stage, they were 25 minutes from Al-Attiyah, which led the stage to the Saudi capital. But a desperately quick finish from Loeb caught up to 10 minutes and he ultimately lost 15 1/2 to Al-Attiyah.
Loeb also lost second place in the general classification against local driver Yazeed Al Rajhi, third on the stage.
Only three minutes separate Al Rajhi, Loeb and Giniel de Villiers, fourth, the former champion who received a five-hour penalty canceled after an exam on Friday. He hit a motorcycle after jumping over a dune on Wednesday, but the rider fell seconds earlier and de Villiers managed to dodge the rider but not the motorcycle. Authorities agreed it was an inevitable accident.
But Al-Attiyah remained the leader of the general classification, as he has done since the start of the rally last Saturday.
Asked about a fourth Dakar victory, he said: âFor victory, it’s hard to say, the Dakar is the Dakar. But we have to be careful and we have to be strong until the end. We have to have a good rhythm without any relaxation because when you relax you make a mistake.
Orlando Terranova won his first stage since 2015, when the rally was in his native Argentina, followed a minute later by Swede Mattias Ekstrom.
Australian Daniel Sanders won his third motorcycle stage but was disappointed that the special was brought to a halt after less than an hour and 101 kilometers, a quarter of what was expected.
The riders took the same route as the cars on Thursday but some parts were considered impassable. Sanders was unconvinced and annoyed that he couldn’t catch more than 2 and a half minutes over British leader Sam Sunderland. Sanders was five and a half minutes behind Sunderland in third, down from fourth.
Sunderland was second on the stage and Matthias Walkner of Austria third and they remained 1-2 overall.
Ross Branch of Botswana, second in Thursday’s stage, fell off his bike after a few kilometers and was taken to the medical tent. He did not finish and was fined 15 hours.
The rally rests on Saturday and resumes on Sunday.
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