WADI AD DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia – Audi driver Mattias Ekstrom claimed his maiden Dakar Rally stage victory at Monday while overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah struggled to an 11th-place stage finish.
It was a battle between Audi teammates Ekstrom and Stephane Peterhansel throughout Monday’s stage, with Peterhansel initially appearing to be the likely victory. However, Ekstrom turned up the pace during the final 73km run to the finish of the 395km stage.
In the end, Ekstrom bested Peterhansel by 43 seconds to take his first stage victory in his second Dakar Rally.
“I was careful in the dunes, maybe a bit too slow,” Ekstrom said. “After that we felt more confident with the track. I enjoyed the ride and Emil did fantastic navigation the whole stage.”
Sebastien Loeb took another chunk out of Al-Attiyah’s overall lead with a third-place stage finish. Al-Attiyah struggled all day with technical issues and a tire puncture, which leaves him with a 37 minute and 58 second overall lead.
GasGas Factory’s Sam Sunderland reclaimed the bike lead with a stage victory Monday, opening a 3 minute and 45 second gap to Austrian Matthias Walkner.
“I gave my all throughout the entire stage and tried to recuperate some time,” Sunderland said. “I had a few crashes in the dunes when I was perhaps pushing a bit too much. It looks like the race is really close this year, so that makes it exciting for people watching at home.”
Team Kamaz Master completed yet another 1-2-3 result in the truck category as leader Dmitry Sotnikov won his third stage of the rally to extend his advantage over teammates Eduard Nikolaev in second and Anton Shibalov in third.