SHAYBAH, SAUDI ARABIA — Nasser Al-Attiyah raced out of the open field in Saudi Arabia with a massive hour-and-a-half lead heading into the final weekend of the Dakar Rally.
Sebastien Loeb moved up to second overall on Friday with a rare fifth consecutive stage win. But he trailed Al-Attiyah by 1 hour and 27 minutes.
Brazil’s Lucas Moraes, driving in his first Dakar race, was a minute behind third on Sunday’s two stages in Daman.
“If we finish in the top five every day, that’s fine for me, we have a big enough lead,” Al-Attiyah said.
Despite his third-place finish on stage 12, the title still didn’t want to be too competitive, the second part of the marathon special, returning to Shaybah from the border of Oman. After 185 kilometers, Al-Attiyah was just over three minutes behind Loeb.
After Ari Vatanen in 1989, Loeb became the second driver in the elite racing category to win five consecutive stages. Mattias Ekstrom was second, more than three minutes behind.
“It was a perfect day; no misses, no stalls, no turns,” Loeb said. “Second is our goal, that’s why we work hard. We made a comeback. I don’t think we can get back to second. I thought we could get fifth, but three great drivers like Carlos ( Sainz), Stéphane (Peterhansel) and Yazeed (Al Rajhi) were ruled out. So, from then on, my target was second.”
The timing of two-time champion Toby Price’s promotion to the moto lead was perfectly timed.
He was second on stage to Nacho Cornejo, who beat home host Daniel Sanders by 49 seconds.
Price, also thanks to the extra time at the break, replaced Schuylerhouse with a 28-second lead at the top of the overall standings.
Except for three stages, Price’s overall ranking has been in the top three. He won both the 2016 and 2019 Dakars in South America.
“Trying to strategize for the race at this point in time is completely out of the question,” Price said. “I just have to keep two wheels and stay healthy. Tomorrow, I’m going to push really hard… But then again, you don’t want to push too hard and risk getting injured or getting out of the race all the way to the finish line.”
House, aiming for his first Dakar title, regretted losing seconds by having to stop to pack his tracker.
“We’re fighting for seconds, any time you spend, it’s actually three extra seconds, putting a tracker in your pocket is just extra time, and those seconds count,” he said. “It was rough to be so close after so many games, but it was fun.”
Kevin Benavides held on to third, nearly three minutes behind.