Bengaluru, January 12: A fifth stage victory in Dakar Rally 2021 being held in the deserts of Saudi Arabia, has helped Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah close the gap with race leader Stephane Peterhansel.
A successful marathon stage gives the Qatari the perfect platform to attack on the final four days of the rally.
Victory in stage eight was Al Attiyah's 40th stage win of his Dakar career, making him the only competitor in the rally's history to win at least one stage at 14 consecutive editions.
"We kept the car in one piece which is good because in some places we were pushing a lot. We got three minutes back on Stephane today and we'll keep going day by day," said Al Attiyah, who has Frenchman Matthieu Baumel as his co-driver.
13-time Dakar winner Peterhansel still leads, but his advantage has been cut to less than five minutes by Al Attiyah.
"In the last 50km I did one or two mistakes. I didn't follow the information of my co-driver Edouard and we had to turn around. Here we probably lost one or two minutes. At the end we're still in the fight," said Peterhansel.
Runner-up on the stage and defending champion Carlos Sainz was joined in the Top 5 by Cyril Despres who celebrated his best result at this Dakar.
"It was another step ahead for us on this beautiful stage. Honestly, one of the top three most beautiful stages on the last 20 Dakars I've done," said Despres.
The marathon stage also concluded for Toyota drivers Kuba Przygoński and Giniel de Villiers. Przygonski was sixth fastest while De Villiers's tyre problems continue.
Mechanical gremlins struck again for Sebastien Loeb who has left out in the desert for a number of hours trying to repair his Hunter BRX.
It has been a mixed experience for Loeb in a fresh car that has now finished after his retirement.
Tuesday's (January 12) stage nine sees the convoy take on a 465kms loop around the Neom bivouac against the clock.
The racing starts on the shore of the Red Sea before arriving to a characteristic mix of sandy sections and fast tracks.