Dakar Rally: Al Attiyah disqualified, De Villiers leads

  • Associated Press
  • Thursday, January 8, 2009 4:37pm
  • SportsSports

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Dakar Rally leader Nasser Al Attiyah was disqualified for skipping part of the sixth stage he won on Thursday.

Rally officials said Al Attiyah missed more than three hidden check points during a difficult route through the Andes foothills between San Rafael and Mendoza.

Al Attiyah, winner of the first and third stages, was leading the sixth stage by more than 20 minutes until his BMW engine overheated. The Qatar driver decided to avoid a swath of hot dunes to reduce the risk of more mechanical problems. He won the stage but race stewards decided to review his course.

With Al Attiyah out, Giniel De Villiers was declared the winner of his second successive stage in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 33 seconds, and moved to the overall lead. A flooded river ford meant the route was cut in half from 245 miles to 111.

“It was quite tricky in the beginning in the dunes,” De Villiers said. “A few times we had to turn around because we couldn’t make it up some dunes. In some places it was very soft. If it hadn’t rained last night, it would have been really, really tricky.”

The South African led a Volkswagen sweep of the podium. Mark Miller of the United States was second, 20 seconds behind, and Carlos Sainz of Spain was third, 3:20 back.

The Volkswagens also dominated the overall standings as De Villiers led Sainz by 7:39, and Miller was 17:51 behind in third.

Marc Coma of Spain continued to lead the motorbike class in his KTM, widening his lead over American Jonah Street to 40:29.

Defending champ Cyril Depres of France won the stage in 2:03:20, two minutes ahead of Coma, after a successful start through the dunes. It was his 17th Dakar stage win.

“It’s a memory to cherish, because it hasn’t always been the case for me this year,” Depres said.

Spaniard Jordi Viladoms was third, more than three minutes behind Coma.

The seventh stage Friday is 260 miles crossing the towering Andes Mountain Range to Valparaiso, Chile. The rally finishes on Jan. 18 in Buenos Aires.

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