Nasser Al-Attiyah earned a stage win for Toyota on Stage 2 of the Dakar Rally, while Stephane Peterhansel overhauled X-raid Mini teammate and Stage 1 winner Carlos Sainz to settle into the overall lead.
Stone gave way to sand for the 284-mile run from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir, which contributed to a jump in speeds throughout the field, but it didn’t help Sainz, who started first and had fallen behind Peterhansel before reaching the second waypoint.
Once ahead, the Frenchman continued to press his advantage, and had opened a gap of just over 1m30s before Al-Attiyah began to reel him in. The lead changed when Al-Attiyah jumped ahead at the 195-mile mark, and the Qatari blasted away to secure the win by over two minutes.
“It was a good day,” said Al-Attiyah, who’d been mired in 10th after the first stage. “Yesterday we lost a lot of time because we opened the way and it was not really good for us, and we didn’t take risks. But today we went flat out, and everything is working very, very well.”
Despite the stage win, the three-time Dakar winner still has a lot of work to do after having started the day 12 minutes in arreas. Now third outright, he still sits three minutes behind Sainz, and nine behind Peterhansel.
“Today it was a very beautiful stage,” Peterhansel said. “The desert was much more open. This morning there was a little, or rather a lot, of stress because it was the first dunes, but also the car was full of diesel which meant it was really heavy. So, the priority was not to get stuck. After that, I have to say that we navigated well.”
While he had no answer for Al-Attiyah, Peterhansel’s advantage over his teammate continued to balloon, with Sainz losing almost five minutes in a single 13-mile stretch between waypoints 7 and 8. The Spaniard finished the day 6.37s behind.
Further back, Overdrive Toyota driver Yazeed Al Rajhi narrowly edged and Century’s Mathieu Serradori for fourth place, although Serradori managed to hold onto fourth in the overall classification, while WRC icon Sebastien Loeb rebounded from an opening day marred by punctures and mistakes to go sixth-fastest.
In bikes, Joan Barreda capitalized on his rivals’ hesitation in the early dunes to bounce back from a tough opening day and lead Ricky Brabec to a Honda 1-2. The stage win – his 25th – ties the Spaniard with five-time event winner Marc Coma in fourth on the all-time stage wins list. He’d started the day 18th
Pablo Quintanilla was third-fastest for Husqvarna, followed by top Yamaha rider Ross Branch and Honda’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo. Branch’s result lifts him to third outright, a mere 14s shy of Brabec.
It was a catastrophic day for KTM, which saw all three of its riders struggle. 2018 winner Matthias Walkner took the worst of it, suffering an early clutch problem that cost him two hours and 15 minutes, and dumped him from third to 46s in the overall standings. Stage 1 winner Toby Price and Sam Sunderland also steadily lost time throughout the day, and they were joined in misery by Stage 1 runner-up Kevin Benavides, who lost nearly 29 minutes to fellow Honda-ite Barreda.
Meanwhile, Yamaha rider Andrew Short became the first factory DNF after his bike suffered a mechanical problem.