Rallying: Al-Attiyah saved by stewards decision after deluge
January 14, 2013 - 12:00:00 am
TUCUMAN, Argentina: Qatar's 2011 Dakar Rally champion Nasser al-Attiyah was a relieved man on Sunday as, despite getting stuck when torrential rain brought chaos to the eighth stage from Salta to Tucuman, he remained in second place.
According to Al-Attiyah's team Red Bull's website, race stewards decided to hand all of the cars that were unable to complete the stage the same time as the last competitor who finished before the stage was abandoned.
This revised result keeps the 42-year-old Qatari in second place and trailing France's defending champion Stephane Peterhansel by just 3min 14sec.
The race had been stopped at the 88km mark when a riverbed on the course swelled with water.
At that time, Al-Attiyah was 13sec ahead of America's Robby Gordon with Peterhansel three minutes behind.
But as the storms worsened, al-Attiyah got stuck and then watched several of his rivals disappear into the distance.
Guerlain Chicherit reached the finish in the fastest time with Peterhansel - a 10-time Dakar winner with six victories on a motorobike and four times in the car discipline - over 12 minutes behind
Al-Attiyah's car, having been successfully extricated from the quagmire and driven to the stage finish in Tucuman, will be given an intensive inspection by the Red Bull mechanics during Sunday's rest day.
Al-Attiyah said the stage had been going swimmingly for them until the torrents of water prevented them from crossing.
"The stage was going very well for us and we had the lead until the conditions on the stage changed," said Al-Attiyah, who won Olympic bronze in the shooting competition last year.
"It was raining and lots of water was coming down from the mountains that made the rivers impossible to cross. We decided we just had to stop and we called the race organisers to let them know there was no way to cross the river. They told us then that they were in the process of stopping the race.
"It was our plan to come to the rest day with the lead but sometimes we must accept what will be.
"There's still a long way to go at this race and after the rest day I will start the following stage as the sixth car. This will give me a great chance to make up some time in this race."
David Casteu took the overall lead in the rain-hit motorcycling section after longtime leader Olivier Pain endured a miserable eighth stage.
Joan Barreda Bort claimed the 183km timed run in 2hr 7min 26sec, ahead of America's Johnny Campbell, who was 7min 4sec behind, with Slovakia's Ivan Jakes in third, 7min 57sec off the pace.
Torrential rain led to the early part of the planned stage, which had been set for 492km, being cancelled.
Casteu, on a Yamaha, has a 9min 26sec overall lead over defending champion Cyril Despres and an 11min 16sec advantage over Portugal's Ruben Faria.
Pain finished more than 30 minutes off the pace and is now fifth overall, 16min 10sec behind Casteu in the race for the title.
Pain was one of a batch of riders who got lost at the 122km stage.
"A huge navigational success," said Casteu. "I'm over the moon because it's difficult to ride at the front while attacking and keeping your bearings, navigating.
"I was able to keep my cool while everyone else was spinning around, but I stayed focused and was the first across the line." (AFP)