LIMA, Peru (AP) — Driver Nasser Al-Attiyah and rider Ricky Brabec dominated the fourth stage of the Dakar Rally on Thursday to lead their categories overall.
Al-Attiyah strengthened his lead to nearly nine minutes over Stephane Peterhansel after outdueling the Frenchman by nearly two minutes on the split 351-kilometer route of valleys and fesh-fesh — fine dust — between Arequipa and Tacna.
“It was very important to catch Stephane and stay with him all the way,”Al-Attiyah said.
Three decades of racing the world’s toughest rally helped Peterhansel endure the fesh-fesh.
“It’s like powder, it goes inside the car and you can’t see anything,” he said.
He saw enough to be the only driver within 20 minutes of the Qatari leader overall.
Nani Roma was nearly 21 minutes back in third, followed by Jakub Przygonski (22 minutes), Yazeed Al Rajhi (nearly 25 minutes) and Sebastien Loeb (50 minutes), who suffered three punctures and came to the finish on a punctured tire.
As it was a marathon stage, drivers were unable to receive assistance or repairs from their crews. That meant Al Rajhi, second overall overnight, suffered when he had to stop near the end. Former champion Giniel de Villiers also lost more time when he stopped to help the damaged Toyota of teammate Bernhard Ten Brinke.
After losing his way on Wednesday, Brabec rode the fourth stage to perfection and increased his gap to the motorbike field the longer the stage went.
By the finish in Tacna, the American was six minutes ahead of defending champion Matthias Walkner, and the new overall leader.
Pablo Quintanilla started the day as the overall leader by a comfortable 11 minutes, but lost it all to trail Brabec by two minutes in second.
Toby Price was third, four minutes down, and Sam Sunderland right behind him after a fall.
Walkner, 21 minutes off the pace on Wednesday, improved to nine minutes back with six stages to go.