The penultimate stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally ran back to Shubaytah from Haradh with an 80km dune section opening the route. This set the tone for the remainder of the stage, as competitors struggled each other to gain an upper hand before tomorrow’s final kilometers.
None tried harder today than Stephane Peterhansel and Paolo Fiuza (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team). With team-mate and general classifications leader Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz opening the stage this morning. Peterhansel sniffed an opportunity to take advantage of his preferable road position to strike to close the gap to not only the overall leader but to possibly leapfrog second-placed Nasser Al Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing). And, the 13-times Dakar Rally winner had the upper hand for much of today’s tricky stage, but Qatari Al Attiyah was on the offensive too.
Trading places and times throughout the day’s 379km of timed sections of a 744km route, Peterhansel and Al Attiyah were separated by just one second at one point, and neither crew wanted to temper their pace.
This lead to both of them blitzing the Saudi Arabian desert to chop a whopping eight minutes from Sainz’ overall lead and bring the stage to a sizzling finish as Peterhansel edged Al Attiyah by just 10 seconds in the stage. This excellent effort brings Peterhansel to only six seconds adrift of Al Attiyah on the general classifications with one stage to run…
Barring a calamity, Sainz will claim victory tomorrow. His MINI Buggy has performed faultlessly, he has lifted his pace to extraordinary heights when the situation called for it, and his co-driver Lucas Cruz hasn’t made a single telling mistake in 2020 Dakar Rally. The Spanish duo sit 10min 17sec in charge.
Commented El Matador at the stage finish: “It’s good to have put the marathon stage behind us. It’s always important. Yesterday we got to work on the car and everything went well. Just one day to go. I’ll keep an eye on the gaps and stay focused for tomorrow.”
The Trucks category has so far been dominated by the Kamaz-Master squad, with today bringing this outfit a one-two-three-four stage result. Andrey Karginov and Dmitry Sotnikov set the pace in the early sections of the stage, but Anton Shibalov joined the high-speed, dune-busting party. This trio raced to the finish line, with Sotnikov trying to shake Karginov. With 100km to the finish, Karginov hammered home his dominant force to win his sixth stage of the year by a minute from Sotnikov, Shibalov and Nikolaev.
Karginov now extends his lead over Shibalov, who in turn cements his second place on the general classification with more than an hour over MAZ-SportAuto’s Siarhei Viazovich.
On two wheels, Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda Team 2020) saw his overall lead cut by half after an overly cautious stage performance today. It, however, hasn’t changed his standing as the category’s overall leader: it stands at 13min 56sec over the hard-charging Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing).
Yesterday’s stage winner and third overall rider, Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda Team 2020) started the stage first and struggled as he carved the tracks for his rivals to follow. This allowed Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to overtake the Chilean on the overall leader board with just one stage to race.
At the front of the Bikes category today, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner showed his speed once more by taking the lead, and he was soon challenged by Quintanilla. Those two raced to the finish line, with Walkner losing out to the Husqvarna rider by just nine seconds.
Tomorrow, competitors head to Qiddiya for the final finish line in a stage shortened to 166km.
General Classifications after Stage Eleven:
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP)/Lucas Cruz (ESP) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): – 41h39m51s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Mathieu Baumel (FRA) (Toyota Gazoo Racing): +10m17s
3. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA)/Paulo Fiuza (PRT) (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team): +10m23s
1. Ricky Brabec (USA) Monster Energy Honda Team 2020: – 38h33m28s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI) Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing: +13m56s
3. Toby Price (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: + 22m34s
1. Andrey Karginov/AndreyMokeev/Igor Leonid (RUS) Kamaz,-Master: 45h04m55s
2. Anton Shibalov/Dmitrii Nikitin/Ivan Tatarinov (RUS) Kamaz-Master: +39m33s
3. Siarhei Viazovich/ Pavel Haranin/Anton Zaparoshchanka (BLR) Maz-SportAuto: +01h52m14s