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Benavides, Peterhansel close in on Dakar titles

Sports Desk, Jan 14 (efe-epa).- France’s Stephane Peterhansel on Thursday closed in on a record-extending 14th Dakar Rally car win, while Argentina’s rider Kevin Benavides had his eye set on his first motorbike win.

Benavides, the general standings leader, will kick off the final stage of the race finishing in Jeddah with a lead of 4’12’’ over British rider Sam Sunderland, who won Thursday’s 11th stage.

“It was a really hard day, very long with plenty of navigation, a lot of sand and dunes,” Benavides said after finishing stage 11 in second place, according to the event’s website.

“Tomorrow we will push like every day, no other strategy than that. There are no team orders and yes, the race is still open,” he added.

Benavides started the stage from al-Ula, 51 seconds ahead of defending champion Ricky Brabec of the United States, who is no longer in the second position of the general ranking.

Along with Benavides, Sunderland, Brabec (7’13’’), Australia’s Daniel Sanders (33’5’’) and US Skyler Howes (49’7’’) are occupying the top five in the race’s general standings, respectively.

Sunderland, the 2017 British champion, knew that Thursday “was one of my last chances to try to win and I gave my all, all day,” and he remained hopeful ahead of the race’s final showdown.

Meanwhile, Mini driver Peterhansel has a 15-minute lead over Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah, who snatched the 11th stage victory on the penultimate day of the race in Saudi Arabia.

“Today it was really complicated … like we expected it to be, because the navigation was not easy,” 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.”

Although Peterhansel is working with a fairly comfortable margin, the Frenchman will have to be cautious during the 225 kilometers that separate him from the final line in Jeddah.

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