RIYADH – Chilean rider Jose Ignacio Cornejo and French driver Stephane Peterhansel took advantage on Tuesday of their rivals’ stumbles to strength their grips on the lead of the overall ranking of the Dakar Rally motorbikes and cars category, respectively.
It was not a figure of speech in case of Australia’s Toby Price, Cornejo’s main rival in the general classification heading to Tuesday’s ninth, 579-kilometer stage, as he crashed 155 km into the Neom course.
As a result, the Australian hurt his left arm and shoulder and had to abandon the stage and be moved by helicopter to the Tabuk hospital for scans, the Dakar Rally said on its Twitter account without providing more details.
Price has practically lost any hope of competing to win the 12-stage race after crashing out of the ninth leg, claimed by Argentina’s Kevin Benavides, his second win in the 2021 Dakar Rally, held for the second time in Saudi Arabia.
The Argentine rider crossed the finish line one minute and 18 seconds ahead of defending champion Ricky Brabec of the United States.
Although Cornejo completed the podium one minute and 34 seconds off the pace, he increased his advantage to 11 minutes and 24 seconds over the now second placed Benavides.
Heading to Tuesday’s stage, Cornejo had been only one minute and six seconds ahead of Price in second place.
“I hope it’s nothing serious (with Toby). That’s the last news we want to hear, that one of us has crashed or is out of the race,” Cornejo said afterwards, according to the Dakar website.
“They let me know at the first refueling point that Toby had crashed and I lost focus a little bit and made a few mistakes, but other than that I did a good job,” he added.
Briton Sam Sunderland is still third in the general classification, nearly 15 minutes off the pace.
In the cars’ category, Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah’s misfortune opened the door wide open for Peterhansel to take what could prove to be a decisive step towards his record-extending 14th Dakar title.
Nine stages into the race, Peterhansel managed to earn a victory that awarded his consistency throughout the event, as he had come second in four stages, third in three and fourth once in the previous eight rounds.
“For sure this stage was a really complicated one. From the beginning we saw that the day would be long, so we decided to not be on full attack but more to manage the tires and be clean with the navigation,” the Dakar website cited the Frenchman as saying.
Less fortunate was al-Attiyah, who struggled with punctures in his car’s tires and consequently lost 12 precious minutes to the Frenchman, mounting his disadvantage in the general ranking to 17 minutes and 50 minutes.
“The navigation was no problem, but we had three flat tires, three punctures and we didn’t have any spare wheels, so we decided to just to get to the finish and Stephane passed us,” the Qatari said afterwards.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz is third in the general classification one hour, two minutes and 41 seconds slower than the Frenchman.
The tenth stage is scheduled for Wednesday, stretching for 583 km between Neom and al-Ula.