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Nasser Al-Attiyah Closes In On Dakar Rally Victory

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 15 2015

American Robby Gordon kicks up more dust during Stage 10 of the Dakar Rally.


Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah moved one day closer to clinching the overall championship of the 37th annual Dakar Rally Wednesday, scoring his fourth stage victory during a trek that saw 2014 champion Nani Roma crash-out of the international off-road marathon.

Stage 10 took the teams from Calama, Chile, to Salta, Argentina, via a 501-kilometer/311-mile liaison, followed by a 369-kilometer/229-mile timed special at high altitude. Driving a Mini, Al-Attiyah prevailed by 1 minute, 35 seconds over Orlando Terranova of Argentina with rookie Yazeed Alrahji of Saudi Arabia third, 3:39 back. Leeroy Poulter placed fourth, 4:06 behind Attiyah, with overall runnerup Giniel de Villiers fifth, 4:24 behind the leader.

Attiyah stretched his overall advantage to 28 minutes, 22 seconds over de Villiers, the South African whose Toyota lost a massive 15 minutes Tuesday after an unforced navigational error.

“It wasn’t an easy day,” Al-Attiyah told NBCSports.com. “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.”

Meanwhile, American Robby Gordon and navigator Johnny Campbell endured another tough day, finishing 21st in their HST Gordini. Gordon’s time of 4 hours, 8 minutes and 31 seconds was 18 minutes, 32 seconds off Attiyah’s winning pace. Competing in his 11th Dakar, Gordon remained 20th overall _7 hours, 41 minutes and 25 seconds behind Al-Attiyah, who finished third overall in 2014.

Wednesday’s stage saw the Car Class attrition rate reach 50 percent, with only 71 of 138 entrants reporting to the starting line. More are expected to drop out following Stage 10, including defending Dakar champion Roma. The winner of Stage 9 on Tuesday, the Spaniard crashed just before the midpoint of Stage 10, reportedly barrel-rolling his Mini several times. Roma and navigator Michel Perin were uninjured, but official abandonment by the team was likely.

This year’s rally is a 9,111-kilometer/5,661-mile journey through desert terrain in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile over 14 days.

Gordon is aiming to record at least one stage victory before the event concludes on Saturday. Gordon has accumulated 11 Dakar stage victories, including his first attempt in a Volkswagen Race Touareg in 2005, becoming the first American to do so. In his previous 10 Dakar starts, Gordon has finished in the top-15 five times. But the native Californian failed to win a stage in 2014 en route to a dismal 44th-place overall result after being forced to retire from the race two days from the end.

Thursday’s schedule will see the teams race from Salta to Termas de Rio Hondo, a relatively small city in northern Argentina with approximately 27,000 residents. Located on the banks of the Dulce River, the community is famous for its hot springs with temperatures of 86 degrees. The city also is home to the 14-turn/2.98-mile racing circuit Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo. The track has hosted several FIA-sanctioned motorcycle and sports car races since its redevelopment in 2012.

After a long 326-kilometer/203-miles liaison, drivers and navigators will need complete concentration on the short, 194-kilometer/121-miles special featuring fast roads lined with trees.

Fans can follow the Dakar Rally via live timing and scoring as well as live updates at www.planetrobby.com. NBCSN is providing daily highlights from 4:30 to 5 p.m. (EST).

2015 Dakar Rally Overall Standings/Car Class (Through Stage 10)

1. (301) Nasser Al-Attiyah (Mini), 35 hours, 19 minutes, 37 seconds; 2. (303) Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), plus-28 mins, 22 secs; 3. (325) Yazeed Alrajhi (Toyota), plus- 43 mins, 8 secs; 4. (307) Krzysztof Holowczyc (Mini), plus-1 hr, 23 mins, 42 secs; 5. (314) Erik Van Loon (Mini), plus-2 hrs, 51 mins, 13 secs; 6. (309) Christian Lavieille (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 1 min, 41 secs; 7. (310) Vladimir Vasilyev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 12 mins, 10 secs; 8. (315) Bernhard Ten Brinke (Toyota), plus-3 hrs, 39 mins, 28 secs; 9. (306) Carlos Sousa (Mitsubishi), plus-3 hrs, 41 mins, 53 secs; 10. (329) Aidyn Rakhimbayev (Mini), plus-3 hrs, 59 mins, 17 secs; 20. (308) Robby Gordon (HST Gordini), plus-7 hrs, 41 mins, 25 secs.

| , RacinToday.com Thursday, January 15 2015
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