Al-Attiyah cuts Sainz’s Dakar lead

Nasser Al-Attiyah kept Dakar Rally rival Carlos Sainz in his sights as he chopped the defending champion's lead in half in the seventh stage to Antofagasta in Chile on Sunday.

The Qatari driver won the 273 kilometer special leg from Arica by one minute and 20 seconds for the 10th stage victory of his Dakar career as the grueling endurance race resumed after a rest day.

Al-Attiyah, who finished runner-up to his Volkswagen teammate last year following an ill-tempered final few stages, is now just 1:22 behind the 48-year-old three-time world rally champion.

"From now on, I really have to attack," he told the race's official website after negotiating vast tracts of sand dunes. "In order to avoid flat tires, we have to avoid sliding sideways too much.

"Last year, I had six flat tires. This year, I really focused on my driving to avoid flats and stay on course as much as possible."

South Africa's Giniel de Villiers was third in another Volkswagen to be 2:56 behind Sainz, while nine-time bike and car champion Stephane Peterhansel of France was fourth for BMW after suffering tire problems.

In the bike category, Chile's Francisco Lopez won his first stage as he came home with a 2:21 advantage but still remained third overall.

The Aprilia rider is more than 18 minutes behind Spain's Marc Coma, with defending champion Cyril Depres second on another KTM machine.

Depres finished second on Sunday, just ahead of Coma.

"It was not easy. There was a lot of dust in the beginning. I went a little faster afterwards but I lost my exhaust at mid-stage more or less," Lopez said.

"So after that, I was afraid my engine would break. Fortunately, it was the shortest special stage since the beginning of the raid. If it had not been, the engine would have been hit bad."

On Monday, the competitors continue to head south down the Chilean coast to Copiapo.

Stage seven results:


Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen 2h40m57s
2. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen +1m20s
3. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen +2m56s
4. Stephane Peterhansel BMW +7m40s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW +17m00s
6. Christian Lavieille Nissan +20m07s
7. Ricardo Leal dos Santos BMW +20m48s
8. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi +22m14s
9. Nani Roma Nissan +24m39s
10. Tonnie van Deijne Mitsubishi +35m10s

Overall standings:


Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Carlos Sainz Volkswagen 23h21m58s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah Volkswagen +1m22s
3. Stephane Peterhansel BMW +21m11s
4. Giniel de Villiers Volkswagen +32m45s
5. Krzysztof Holowczyc BMW +1h28m59s
6. Mark Miller Volkswagen +2h13m44s
7. Guilherme Spinelli Mitsubishi +2h38m50s
8. Christian Lavieille Nissan +3h26m41s
9. Ricardo Leal dos Santos BMW +3h30m40s
10. Matthias Kahle SMG +5h45m10s

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