JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Stephane Peterhansel will take a 15-minute lead into the last stage of the Dakar Rally after overcoming two punctures on Thursday to stay in front.
Peterhansel's record 14th win and record eighth in a car are pending on the last stage back to Jeddah, where the rally in Saudi Arabia started 11 days ago.
The Frenchman led the 11th stage from AlUla south to Yanbu beside the Red Sea through the middle section, and led title rival Nasser Al-Attiyah by up to 3 1/2 minutes.
But Al-Attiyah, a three-time champion, overcame his own punctures to win his sixth stage. However, the Qatari gained only 1 minute, 56 seconds on second-placed Peterhansel.
“We lost just a few minutes, it's nothing,” Peterhansel said. "There's only one day to go ... it's time to cross fingers and hope that we will be in first place at the end.”
Defending champion Carlos Sainz was third on the stage and remained third overall, more than an hour behind.
Kevin Benavides of Argentina looks set to win his first Dakar title after holding off Honda teammate Ricky Brabec, the defending motorbike champion from the U.S.
Brabec, who started the stage only 51 seconds and second behind Benavides overall, ended it seven minutes behind and third. They rode the last 200 kilometers together and opened the way after teammate and Spanish rider Joan Barreda ran out of petrol.
Barreda, who started the stage fourth overall, missed a refueling station and lasted only another 50 kilometers, until around 267 kilometers in. He called for medical assistance and was airlifted out.
“Tomorrow we will push like every day, no other strategy than that,” Benavides said. "There are no team orders.”
Benavides’ closest rival became stage winner Sam Sunderland of Britain, the 2017 champion. He clawed back six minutes to lie only four minutes behind going into the last stage.
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