A tight battle in Wednesday’s Stage 4 of the 2015 Dakar Rally went to Nasser Al-Attiyah, who not only chalked up his second stage win of the event but also put nearly three minutes on his closest rival, Giniel de Villiers.
The win was up for grabs nearly all the way to the end of the run from Chilecito, Argentina to Copiapo, Chile. At the fifth and final checkpoint, Peugeot’s Stephane Peterhansel was leading the way by a mere 17 seconds over Toyota’s Yazeed Alrajhi and by 31 seconds over Al-Attiyah.
But Peterhansel suffered a flat tire after a sizable jump. That opened the door for his rivals and in the end, it was Al-Attiyah that emerged victorious by two minutes, 40 seconds over defending Dakar champ Nani Roma – who has surely put his horrible start last weekend behind him now.
de Villiers finished third (+2:57), followed by Alrajhi in fourth (+3:25). Peterhansel was forced to settle for fifth (+5:48).
Afterwards, Al-Attiyah seemed to place de Villiers, the South African, as his main rival for the time being.
“It was a good day for us. We went a bit harder on the dunes towards the end of the stage,” the Qatari said. “Giniel’s the man to beat. He’s always very consistent in the Dakar, always near the top, so putting three minutes into him is great.
“I’ll keep doing things this way, driving cautiously and attacking every now and then. Yesterday, we took things easier and today, we attacked a bit. This gives us some margin to kick back a little tomorrow.”
Al-Attiyah’s overall lead over de Villiers is now at eight minutes, 15 seconds. But de Villiers says everything’s going according to plan from his perspective.
“The first part wasn’t that difficult, but we tried to attack throughout the part with dunes, which requires a laser-like focus,” he said of his day. “We didn’t take any risks at all in the rocky parts because a flat tire costs you loads of time.
“We’ve usually had good stages in Chile, it’s very demanding and usually interesting. Everything’s going fine. We need to stay on this path.”
While Al-Attiyah and de Villiers carried on with fine efforts, multiple contenders saw their Dakar hopes severely damaged. Stage 3 winner Orlando Terranova, Peugeot’s Carlos Sainz, and America’s own Robby Gordon all fell victim to mechanical problems.
Gordon lost nearly an hour and a half because of his mishap on the No. 308 Gordini he shares with co-driver Johnny Campbell. They’re now 39th overall, down by a total of 5 hours, 47 minutes, 45 seconds to Al-Attiyah.
As for Terranova and Sainz, they have yet to finish the stage at the time of this post.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 4 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 4 – Chilecito to Copiapo)
1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 12hrs, 30mins, 44secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota,), + 8mins, 15secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 23mins, 33secs
4. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 42mins, 32secs
5. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 43mins, 30secs
6. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 45mins, 14secs
7. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 59mins, 26secs
8. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 1hr, 0mins, 44secs
9. 329-Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), 1hr, 4mins, 23secs (30secs penalty)
10. 320-Ronan Chabot (SMG), 1hr, 11mins, 30secs