Defending champion Nani Roma put in a fine performance during yesterday’s fourth leg of the Dakar Rally from Chilecito to Copiapo, and looked set to take his first stage win until X-Raid Mini teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah snatched victory from the Spaniard in the final moments of the special – extending the Qatari’s lead in the overall rankings even further.
Even though he finished the stage just 2 minutes 40 second in arrears, Roma poses no threat to Al-Attiyah’s title campaign, having already lost more than nine hours to his teammate.
“It was a good day for us. We went a bit harder on the dunes towards the end of the stage. Giniel’s the man to beat. He’s always very consistent in the Dakar, always near the top. I’ll keep doing things this way, driving cautiously and attacking every now and then,” Al-Attiyah said.
South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers was only a further 17 seconds behind in the Mzantsi-prepared Imperial Toyota Hilux – with Dakar debutant Yazeed Alrajhi and his Overdrive Hilux another 28 seconds behind.
”The first part wasn’t that difficult, but we tried to attack throughout the part with dunes, which requires a laserlike focus. We didn’t take any risks at all in the rocky parts because a flat tyre costs you loads of time. Everything’s going fine, we need to stay on this path,” de Villiers said.
Frenchman and 11-time Dakar champion Stephane Peterhansel proved that the new Peugeot 2008 DKR is also competitive by finishing fifth – 5 minutes 48 seconds behind. He might have taken the stage victory had he not suffered a puncture. Peterhansel is little under an hour and a half behind the front-runner overall, but is faring a lot better than 2010 champion and teammate Carlos Sainz – who lost hours after mechanical issues just 30 km into the stage brought his title chances to a halt. Their teammate, five-time Dakar motorcycle champion Cyril Despres, brought up the rear of the car category, finishing 4 hours 24 minutes and 16 seconds behind Al-Attiyah.
Today the competitors left Copiapo for the seaside town of Antofagasta. An initial 174 km liaison will be followed by a 458 stage that includes plenty of flat-out sections and lots of the treacherous soft surface known as fesh-fesh that requires the utmost concentration – and all of that before another 65 km until they reach the overnight bivouac.