Mini back in Dakar lead, Giniel 2nd
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San Juan, Argentina - Nasser Al-Attiyah bounced back from being stripped of victory on Sunday's opening stage by taking the overall lead after winning Monday's second stage of the Dakar Rally in Argentina.
Driving a Mini, Al-Attiyah had claimed victory on Sunday only to be stripped of his success for speeding - clocking 68km/h in a section limited to 50km/h - and earning a two-minute penalty that saw him relegated to seventh place.
But the 2011 winner put on a masterful display on Monday to finish eight and a half minutes clear of South Africa's Giniel de Villiers to take the overall lead after the 518km stage from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan.
Al-Attiyah said he felt winning this stage had been key to his overall hopes.
“We won the stage. This was a big thing today. This is the key of this Dakar. Now we can go calmly until the rest day,” he said.
“For the marathon day we can go really easily, but we will try every day to be like this. It was a plan today because we studied the stage very well.”
Stage 2 started with Al-Attiyah's Mini team-mate Orlando Terranova in the lead after early leader Al-Attiyah was penalised for speeding in a controlled zone on Sunday. That moved him down to seventh and promoted De Villiers to third overall - with the American showman Robbie Gordon, in a Hummer, in between.
But Gordon had trouble early in Stage 2, leaving De Villiers to battle it out with Terranova.
"We had another solid day today,” said De Villiers in San Juan, “and putting this long stage behind us is a relief. Orlando and Nasser both drove well today, but we are happy to be in second at this point."
Terranova demonstrated just how easy it is to lose time on the Dakar, when he went off the route after leading the rally for most of Stage 2. The incident cost him twenty minutes just kilometres from the end of the stage, losing the lead of the rally and missing out on the stage win in the process.
POULTER ON THE CHARGE
For a while after the start of the stage, De Villiers’ team-mate Leeroy Poulter looked like a strong contender to win the stage, as he went fastest of all at one checkpoint after another, but in the end had to settle for 11th position on the day.
"We started the stage at a fast pace," he said, "and the car felt fantastic. But towards the end of the stage we caught up to the crews ahead of us, and that put a stop to our progress. Overall it was a good day for us, though we would have liked to have finished as strong as we started this morning."
During most of the morning it had appeared as if Poulter was setting the pace, but in reality it was Al-Attiyah who had been going fastest. Al-Attiyah's Mini had suffered a transponder problem, and as a result his times were not showing on the Dakar's system until he exited the 518km stage.
Dutch driver Bernhard Ten Brinke in the third works Toyota Hilux came in third, more than 10 minutes behind Al Attiyah; De Villiers and he are now second and third respectively in the overall standings.
Veteran Peugeot drivers Carlos Sainz and Staphane Peterhansel, both former winners, struggled for the second day in a row. Sainz lost more than 20 minutes after colliding with motorcyclist Laurent Moulin, who was left with a broken leg and facial trauma.
Meanwhile 11-times Dakar winner Peterhansel lost more than an hour after he too crashed and was left waiting for help to get going again.
Defending champion Nani Roma is already out of contention after the Spaniard broke down in his Mini on Sunday and had to be towed home, losing more than six hours.
Spain's Joan Barreda Bort moved into the overall motorcycle lead by taking victory on the second stage.
“Today was really hard, really tough in the last part of the special with a lot of tracks and a lot of bumps and it was so physical,” said Barreda Bort.
“But it was one of these days where it is important to get to the finish and we've got here so we are really happy. I was alone in some parts, but the most important was to remain calm over the first kilometres and finally we did a really good job.”
He finished 6m13s ahead of his Honda team-mate Paulo Goncalves with fellow Spaniard Ruben Faria third on a KTM at 9min 16sec.
Reigning champion Marc Coma, another Spaniard riding a KTM, finished eighth, more than 12 minutes off the pace, and is now down in sixth at a similar deficit overall.
Top South African rider Riaan van Niekerk finished 12th for the day, 21m44s off the pace, and moved up to 15th overall, while fellow KTM rider Albert Hintenaus came home 68th after a tough ride, more than two hours after the leaders; he's now 69th overall.
Wessel Bosman was not listed as a finisher.
Briton Sam Sunderland, who won Sunday's opening stage, got lost and didn't finish amongst the top 50 on Monday.
This year's Dakar Rally course is a gruelling 9000km trek through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia before arriving back in Buenos Aires for the finish on 17 January. It is the seventh in South America since its enforced transfer for security reasons from Africa, is the 37th of all time.AFP