Stephane Peterhansel retained his Dakar Rally lead in the car category after Tuesday’s third stage as Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah closed the gap to five minutes in the Saudi Arabian desert dunes and canyons.
Al-Attiyah, a triple champion, took his third stage win after leading the way in Saturday’s prologue and then clawing back time on Monday after losing 12 minutes on Sunday.
That propelled the Toyota driver to second overall, with Peterhansel’s Mini buggy team mate and defending champion Carlos Sainz dropping to fourth after straying off route.
“Today we really pushed a lot and (co-driver) Mathieu (Baumel) did the navigation well. Everything is working very well like we need it to,” said Al-Attiyah.
“I’m really quite happy with the pace, because to open and to win the stage is good... there was one point where it was very, very difficult navigation and I think most of the drivers got lost there.”
Peterhansel, ‘Mr Dakar’ because of his record 13 victories in the event on two wheels and four, had an early puncture and was third in the stage behind Toyota’s South African Henk Lategan.
Sainz was 21st fastest, 33 minutes off the Frenchman’s lead.
In the motorcycle category, Australian Toby Price took his second stage win of the event while American Skyler Howes took the overall lead.
Two times champion Price, who also won Sunday’s opening stage on his KTM but started the day 29th after struggling on Monday, beat Argentine rider Kevin Benavides by a minute and 16 seconds after the 403km loop around Wadi Ad-Dawasir.
Howes, who had been eighth overall overnight, finished fourth on his non-factory KTM to go 33 seconds clear of Benavides.
Price moved up to fourth, one minute and 52 seconds off the lead, with Britain’s 2017 winner Sam Sunderland fifth.
Overnight leader Joan Barreda dropped to eighth, the Spaniard more than nine minutes behind Howes after having to open the stage.