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Dakar Rally result: Nasser al-Attiyah leads as SA drivers struggle

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Qatari Nasser al-Attiyah won the first special of the Dakar Rally on Sunday to extend his race lead after victory in the prologue.

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The 51-year-old, looking to win the race for the fourth time, finished the stage 12 minutes and seven seconds quicker than nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb in second place.

“It feels steady. We’ll do our best, but today was a good stage for us. This is no time to race conservatively,” said Toyota’s Nasser al-Attiyah, a former Olympic shooting medallist.

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The 333km loop around northern Saudi Arabia saw several competitors suffer navigational difficulties, resulting in large time gaps.

Record 14-time Dakar Rally winner Stephane Peterhansel, nicknamed “Monsieur Dakar”, lost a lot of time after losing a wheel of his Audi.

The Frenchman could now decide to withdraw from the race after having to wait for six hours for assistance.

Loeb is now 12 minutes and 44 seconds behind Nasser al-Attiyah in the early standings after battling back from a difficult start which saw his car suffer two punctures.

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“It really wasn’t simple, we messed up and started with two punctures before the neutralisation,” he said.

“There was no room for error in the second part.”

“The first part of the day dented our confidence, but everything turned out fine,” he added.

Bad day at the Dakar Rally for SA entrants

It was a horrible day for South Africa’s entrants in the car section.

Giniel de Villiers is in seventh place overall, 33 minutes and 33 second behind, with Christiaan Visser next best in 20th place (1:02.25 adrift).

Shameer Variawa follows in 21st place (1:06.21 behind) with Ernest Roberts in 28th (1:16.48).

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Much was expected from Brian Baragwanath, but his chances of a podium are effectively over as he finds himself in 45th place, 1:48.41 behind.

The same applies to Schalk Burger (49th at 2:26.47) and Henk Lategan (52nd at 3:24.22).

Meanwhile, Australian Daniel Sanders extended his early advantage in the bikes category, beating Chilean Pablo Quintanilla by 3:07 on Sunday.

“In the end, a lot of guys got lost and, luckily, we got onto the right track,” said Sanders.

“It was a good, strong finish. I just didn’t push too much at the start, just gave it a nice rhythm, and at the end I tried to open as much as I could.”

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