Quintanilla has 1st Dakar title within reach, Al-Attiyah cruising to his 3rd
The Dakar Rally on Tuesday entered its final stretch with the eighth of this year’s 10 stages and with Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla with his first race title within reach in motorcycles, while Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah is sitting pretty and approaching his third triumph in automobiles.
Quintanilla (Husqvarna) will now have to go up against Australia’s Toby Price (KTM), the 2016 champion who on Tuesday moved into first place in the general rankings thanks to the fact that US rider Ricky Brabec (Honda) had to abandon the contest after his bike broke down when he was leading the race.
The Chilean ended up in second place in the leg, which was run between San Juan de Marcona and Pisco, a 575-kilometer (356-mile) stretch - 360 km of it timed - that served to put him in the second spot in the general classification just 1 minute 3 seconds behind Price.
Meanwhile, Austria’s Matthias Walkner (KTM) - the 2018 Dakar champ and third in the general rankings some 7 minutes behind Price after the eighth leg - also has a shot at the title, but it seems to be Price and Quintanilla who will be the ones to face off in the race’s last two legs.
In the Chilean’s favor is the fact that Price ended the day on Tuesday very tired and with his right hand in considerable pain, to the point where it was difficult for him to get his glove off by himself.
Meanwhile, Quintanilla said that it will be very tough to shave down Price’s one-minute lead on Wednesday during the ninth leg because the start will be crowded and the lead riders will be running together.
In autos, it was another great day for Al-Attiyah, who widened his lead over his rivals thanks to the fact that France’s Stephane Peterhansel (Mini) once again had problems with the sand and got stranded twice, thereby losing time.
Although the Qatari said after the leg that he was “rather happy” with his performance on Tuesday and admitted that he had a good lead, he refused to say that he had the race sewn up.
He won the 2011 Dakar driving for Volkswagen and in 2015 with Mini.
Meanwhile, Spain’s Joan “Nani” Roma took advantage of Peterhansel’s difficulties, moving up into second position in the classification but 46 minutes behind Al-Attiyah, a distance that he can only surmount if the Qatari has some significant mishap.
France’s nine-time Dakar winner, Sebastian Loeb, put on another great show on Tuesday, winning his fourth stage in this Rally and ensconcing himself in third place, just 16 seconds behind Roma.
In light UTVs, Chile’s Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez took the stage and remains the general leader, while in quads Argentina’s Nicolas Cavigliasso has almost clinched his first Dakar and in the truck category Russia’s Eduard Nikolaev (Kamaz), the reigning champ, has virtually been eclipsed by his countryman, Dmitry Sotnikov, also with Kamaz.