Saudi Al-Rajhi denies “Mr. Dakar” on the marathon stage

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Sakaka (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)

Saudi Toyota rider Yazeed Al-Rajhi took top honors in the seventh stage of the Dakar marathon on Sunday, with House hopeful denying the overall leader Stéphane Peterhansel in search of his 14th title.

Mini driver Peterhansel was about to cross the line first at the end of the grueling 453 km timed special with mountains of sand between Ha’il and Sakaka.

But Al-Rajhi had other ideas and, thanks to his experienced co-driver Dirk Von Zitzewitz, a veteran of Dakar 18, he took command about 100 km away.

He won his first stage victory in the event since 2015 and his Dakar debut 48 seconds ahead of Peterhansel, with Carlos Sainz third at 1min 15sec.

In fourth position, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah, who is now 7min 53sec behind Peterhansel in the general classification with last year’s champion Sainz more than 40 minutes behind in third.

Peterhansel, 55, first competed in the Dakar in 1988, the year the Peugeot 405 of leader Ari Vatanen was sadly stolen in Bamako, with a ransom demanded for its return. He finally arrived, but too late for Vatanen.

Since then, Peterhansel has made motorsport’s toughest event an annual pilgrimage, and with 13 wins on both two and four wheels he has rightly earned his nickname “Mister Dakar”.

He now has six podiums in seven stages and hopes to clinch his first victory of 2021 in the table of the eighth stage on Monday, which will see the Dakar circus heading west from Sakaka to the seaside resort of Neom in the Red Sea.

In the motorcycle category, reigning motorcycle champion Ricky Brabec claimed the seventh stage victory in 4:37:44.

The American, winner of the prologue, came out in 2mins 07sec in front of Chilean Honda rider Jose Ignacio Cornejo, the new leader of the general.

But only a second behind Toby Price (KTM) with Sam Sunderland, the 2017 British champion, third at 2min 11sec.

The leader of the night Xavier de Soultrait slipped to fourth place, 2min 34sec behind.

Botswanan Ross Branch suffered a spectacular spill from his Yamaha at the start of the stage, but luckily he was not injured.

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