2021 Dakar Stage 11 sees Al-Attiyah take the win but Peterhansel retains a seemingly unbeatable rally lead overall.
2021 Dakar Stage 11, the penultimate stage, was originally scheduled as the longest of the rally, covering a total of 560km (a 49km Liason and 511km Special) from Alula to Yanbu, but it was shortened to 464km due to heavy rainfall in the area that made conditions too treacherous.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota Gazoo Racing) was the first home on Stage 11 but rally leader Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini JCW Team) finished only 1m 30s arrears and looks good to take the 2021 crown barring any mistakes or mechanical issues on tomorrow’s final 447km stage from Alula back to Jeddha.
“It really wasn’t easy,” Al-Attiyah said at the end of the stage. “I don’t want to say anything, but I am really happy to be here on day 11 without any technical problems with the car. It’s exactly like last year, we are really struggling with the tyres. I hope for next year there will be better rules for everybody. Sure, there’s still one day left, but this time we have really had a lot of punctures. I’ve had more than 16 tyres punctured. I am sure that 16 tyres times one minute and a half each change is a lot. But it’s good to make it to here on this Dakar and we are quite happy. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
“They were really strange dunes – in the middle of the dunes there were some rocks just after the crest of the dunes, so it was not easy to anticipate or to see,” Peterhansel said of the day’s route. “The last one was a very big impact and we had another puncture. We were a little bit afraid that also some part of the frame was broken, but at the end it was okay. We lost just a few minutes, it’s nothing. There’s only one day to go… it’s time to cross fingers and hope that we will be in first place at the end.”
In the Bikes, Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM Factory Team) took the stage win ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) and Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021).
Sunderland’s Stage 11 success might not be enough for the overall win in 2021 – he still trails Benavides by 5m 07s with one stage left to go. Last year’s winner Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021) sits in third, another two minutes behind Sunderland.
“I knew that today was one of my last chances to try to win and I gave my all, all day,” Sunderland said. “The boys up front did a great job and, you know, I cannot be sad, because I give everything I have and try my best. I didn’t quite manage to take enough time, but I’m happy with my effort.”
Aussie rider Daniel Sanders (KTM Factory Team) had another blinder of a stage, finishing in fourth despite a bee sting to his upper lip that caused considerable swelling. He now sits in fourth overall.
“It’s Dakar mate, I even got stung by a bee,” Sanders joked through his swollen lip. “I thought I left them at home. As long as it’s not my eyes I don’t care; I already look like… like this. I’ve had a rough time.”
The other Aussie riders, Michael Burgess (BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team) and Andrew Houlihan (Nomadas Racing) finished the stage in 32nd (now 28th overall) and 54th (now 51st overall) respectively.
Andrew Shibalov (Kamaz – Master) took another stage win in the Trucks, ahead of teammate Airat Mardeev and Aliaksei Vishneuski (Maz-Sportauto). Rally leader Dmitry Sotnikov (Kamaz – Master) played it safe to come home in fourth.
Sotnikov now has a 40m 42s lead overall, leaving his teammates Shibalov and Mardeev to fight it out for the other podium positions, with Martin Macik (Big Shock Racing) sitting in fourth.