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Sainz and Benavides win penultimate stage, Al-Attiyah and Sunderland close to the title

The Qatari Nasser al-Attiyah (Toyota) in cars and the Englishman Sam Sunderland (KTM) in motorcycles are one step away from winning the Dakar Rally, after the dispute this Thursday of the penultimate stage, won by the Spanish Carlos Sainz (Audi ) and Argentine Kevin Benavides (KTM) in their respective categories.

After a day with 346 km of special around Bisha (southwest), Al-Attiyah retains a 33-minute lead over second overall, Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive).

It is the second partial victory this year for the Madrid rider (who had already won the third stage), in a day, 346 km of special around Bisha (southwest), which did not cause major changes in the general.

Loeb had finished second in the stage, snatching some four minutes from Al-Attiyah, but was subsequently penalized five minutes for speeding (91 km/h in a 30-speed section), dropping to 7th position in the stage, losing another 40 seconds to his Qatari rival.

After this penalty, the Argentine Lucio Álvarez (Toyota) rose to second place in the stage, 3:10 behind Sainz, and the also Spanish Nani Roma (Prodrive) was 4th, at 4:10.

In case of victory, it would be the fourth Dakar title for Al-Attiyah, after those of 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Loeb only has the 146 km of Friday special left, on his way to Yedá where the rally will end, to try to improve his second place in the general classification, a position he already held in 2017.

"We have made a good navigation, without errors, a nice attack, we are where we can be. As I have been saying for days, I do the best I can, the car is top and we enjoy"Loeb declared after the stage.

– Everything open in motorcycles – If everything seems decided in the car category, in the motorcycle category everything can happen after the upset that the classification suffered this Thursday.

The Argentinian Kevin Benavides (KTM), current champion of the race, won the stage, beating the Englishman Sam Sunderland (KTM) by 4 seconds, who regains the head of the motorcycle classification.

"This race is an emotional lift, I had promised my bike to make it live hell and it has never abandoned me. The strategy was ‘all or nothing’. Not saving anything, giving the maximum from the beginning, is what I have done and we will see what happens tomorrow. It’s all to do", declared Sunderland upon arrival, who now lead by 6 minutes and 52 seconds to the second overall, the Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Honda).

The Austrian Mattias Walker completes the provisional podium, 7:15 behind the leader, with the last stage of the rally remaining, on Friday, a short special (164 km) to reach Jeddah.

Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha), who started Thursday’s stage as the leader with a five-minute lead, opened the track and got lost at kilometer four of the route, giving way in the stage by 21 minutes to Benavides, winner of the test in 2021 and that he is 4th overall 15 minutes from Sunderland.

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