Sports Desk, Jan 3 (EFE).- Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) on Monday claimed the second stage of the Dakar Rally car category to close the gap behind overall leader Nasser al-Attiyah to nine minutes and six seconds.
The Frenchman covered the 338-km stage stretching from Saudi Arabia’s Ha’il to al-Artawiyah in three hours and 25 minutes, three minutes and 28 seconds ahead of the Qatari (Toyota Gazoo Racing).
“It was a real match, Nasser was pushing very hard,” the Frenchman said afterwards. “He was opening the road for the cars but still he was really fast. We had to push like in WRC for almost 340 km.”
“It was exciting but it was a really tough fast rhythm. At the end I caught him, so I was able to follow him through the dunes,” he added.
Spanish Carlos Sainz (Team Audi Sport) completed the podium, with a time of three hours, 30 minutes and 52 seconds, having lost more than two hours over the previous two days of racing.
His teammate Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel also had a better day at the office, as he came fourth in the second stage seven minutes and 56 seconds off the pace, having broken the rear suspension of his Audi in the previous stage.
Spaniard Nani Roma (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) completed the top-5, eight minutes and two seconds off the pace.
Al-Attiyah still on top of the general classification with six hours, 59 minutes and 21 seconds, nine minutes and six seconds ahead of Loeb. Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez is third nearly 41 minutes slower than the Qatari.
“We hit a stone in the last ten kilometres. We were in front of Seb, but after that we had to let him go. We decided to not continue pushing to avoid losing two or three minutes extra,” the Qatari said afterwards.
“But I’m quite happy with this stage and opening all the way (…)I think it will be us two until the end fighting, but there’s still a long way,” he added. EFE