Qatari champion al-Attiyah wins Dakar second stage as Loeb struggles

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Qatar’s defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah won the second stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Monday to move his Toyota into second place overall behind three-times winner Carlos Sainz.

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Sunday’s opening stage winner Sainz finished third for Audi on the 430km run from the Red Sea over the mountains to AlUla to stretch his overall lead to two minutes and 12 seconds.

The stage win was the 45th of four times overall winner al-Attiyah’s career and enabled him to claw back five minutes from Spaniard Sainz and set up another duel between the old rivals.

Dutch driver Erik Van Loon was second on the rocky stage for Overdrive Racing.

Nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, who was second overnight for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, was a big loser on the stage after punctures cost the Frenchman more than an hour and probably his hopes of victory.

“It was a really bad day for us, we lost a lot of time with three punctures” said Loeb, who had to slow after being left without a spare tire and now trails Sainz by an hour and 20 minutes.

“For me it was absolutely no pleasure to drive. The stage was really bad, a lot of stones.

“It was just a question of going very slow trying to avoid a puncture. That was the only goal of the stage and finally we had three. We had to try to repair one tire and it took us a long time.”

Sainz’s Audi team mates Stephane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekstrom were eighth and 15th overall respectively with the former, a 14-times Dakar winner on two wheels and four, 36 minutes off the lead.

In the motorcycle category, 21-year-old KTM rider Mason Klien of the US took the lead one minute and 41 seconds ahead of Australian Toby Price, also on a KTM.

Tuesday’s third stage is 447km from AlUla to Ha’il.

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