On a Wednesday where defending Dakar Rally champion Nani Roma crashed, Nasser Al-Attiyah moved into even better position to take Roma’s crown for himself.
Al-Attiyah, who finished third in an all-Mini podium last year, captured his fourth stage victory of the 2015 Dakar and extended his overall lead to 28 minutes, 22 seconds over Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers.
The Qatari won the stage by 1 minute, 35 seconds over another Mini pilot, Orlando Terranova. Yazeed Alrajhi was third at 3:39 back, followed by Leeroy Poulter with a Dakar-best fourth (+ 4:06), and then de Villiers in fifth (+ 4:24).
“It wasn’t an easy day,” Al-Attiyah said. “I think the last few days must’ve seen a lot of rain which deepened the holes on the course. That’s what made Nani’s car turn over, but he’s fine. We’re here and I’m rather happy because I think we clocked a good time.
“We’re doing our job every day, the rest isn’t my problem. We need to get to the finish. I’m happy with how things are going, we’ve been leading the rally since the start in Buenos Aires.
“It’s not that easy, but the team’s done a great job, just like [co-driver] Mathieu [Baumel]. The only mishap we’ve had is the day we lost a wheel.”
A navigational error on Tuesday left de Villiers with a fading chance of winning the Dakar. But while he knows it will take a big stumble from Al-Attiyah to get him back in the fight, he says he hasn’t lost all hope yet.
“Nasser’s too far ahead, it makes no sense to take risks,” he said. “We won’t be able to catch him unless he makes mistakes, but it can happen.
“Yesterday was a disappointment, but we still believe in our chances, you never know. It ain’t over yet. Things are good, on balance, because we know we’re still in the fight for victory.”
Meanwhile, Roma’s apparent turning of the corner following his win in Tuesday’s Stage 9 came to an abrupt halt with a wreck that caused him, co-driver Michel Perin, and their Mini to reportedly roll over multiple times at kilometer 193.
Both Roma and Perin are fine, but it marks another disaster this year for Roma. His title defense was quickly ruined on the first day of the Dakar due to an oil-pump issue.
An official abandonment of the event for Roma following Wednesday’s crash has yet to be announced by his team.
American driver Robby Gordon had a so-so result in the 358km Stage 10 from Calama, Chile to Salta, Argentina, finishing 21st at 18:32 behind Al-Attiyah.
Gordon started the stage amongst the Top 10 but slipped back and maintained a 15th to 18th-place pace for much of the day before dropping out of the Top 20 in the final kilometers.
He and co-driver Johnny Campbell still retain 20th place in the overall standings.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 10 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Cars
(After Stage 10 – Calama, Chile to Salta, Argentina)
1. 301-Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 35hrs, 19mins, 37secs
2. 303-Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), + 28mins, 22secs
3. 325-Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), + 43mins, 8secs
4. 307-Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), + 1hr, 23mins, 42secs
5. 314-Erik Van Loon (Mini), + 2hrs, 51mins, 13secs
6. 309-Christian Lavieille (Toyota), + 3hrs, 1min, 41secs
7. 310-Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), + 3hrs, 12mins, 10secs
8. 315-Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), + 3hrs, 39mins, 28secs
9. 306-Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), + 3hrs, 41mins, 53secs
10. 329-Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), + 3hrs, 59mins, 17secs
20. 308-Robby Gordon (Gordini), + 7hrs, 41mins, 25secs