Al-Attiyah, Coma near victory in Dakar Rally
CORDOBA, Argentina – Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar drove his car and Marc Coma of Spain rode his bike without any major problems in Friday’s next-to-last stage of the Dakar Rally, setting themselves up for victory on Saturday.
Al-Attiyah finished 6 minutes, 11 seconds behind the winner and defending champion Carlos Sainz of Spain to take third in the 12th stage. Overall, Al-Attiyah leads Giniel de Villiers of South Africa by 48:21 and Sainz by 1:21:16. The three leaders all drive Volkswagens.
In bikes, Coma won the stage, finishing 37 seconds ahead of KTM teammate Cyril Despres of France. The Spaniard leads Despres by 16:36 in the overall standings.
Saturday final stage ends in the city of Baradero, located about 120 miles northwest of Buenos Aires. The official podium ceremonies will be held Sunday in the capital, where the rally began on Jan. 1.
Al-Attiyah, who finished second last year to Sainz and is looking for his first Dakar victory, tried to keep his emotions under check.
“It really was the hardest stage of my life because I had to keep focused and not make any mistakes,” Al-Attiyah said. “Sometimes I was going fast, sometimes slow, because I needed to keep my concentration and keep the same pace.”
Coma, who won in 2006 and 2009, knows title No. 3 is only a day away.
“There is still a 190-kilometer stage left to race tomorrow,” Coma said. “Normally there shouldn’t be any complications, but we still need to race them. It’s there to be done. It just shows that the route has been designed to ensure that there is suspense up to the end, so we’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow.”
In quads, Argentine rider Alejandro Patronelli leads overall by 58:18, ahead of countryman Sebastian Halpern. Christophe Declerck of France won Friday’s stage. Patronelli’s brother, Marcos, won last year in quads.
In trucks, Vladimir Chagin of Russia won the penultimate stage and leads overall by 31:19.