Qatar’s Al-Attiyah wins penultimate Dakar stage but deflated Peterhansel keeps lead

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X-Raid Mini JCW Team’s Stephane Peterhansel and Co-Driver Edouard Boulanger in action during stage 11 of the Dakar Rally. (Reuters)
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Mini's driver Stephane Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger of France change a tyre as hey compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Mini's Spanish drivers Carlos Sainz and co-driver Lucas Cruz compete during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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British biker Sam Sunderland (R) powers his Ktm's in front U's biker Skyler Howes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Ktm's British biker Sam Sunderland competes during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2020 between Alula and Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, on January 14, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Qatar’s Al-Attiyah wins penultimate Dakar stage but deflated Peterhansel keeps lead

  • Peterhansel will start the final stage, a 225-kilometer run across chains of dunes to Jeddah, leading by a quarter of an hour

YANBU, Saudi Arabia: Nasser Al-Attiyah won his fifth stage on the Dakar Rally on Thursday when he finished nearly two minutes ahead of leader Stephane Peterhansel but still trails the Frenchman with one day to go.
Peterhansel will start the final stage, a 225-kilometer run across chains of dunes to Jeddah, leading by a quarter of an hour as he seeks to add to his record 13 victories in the race.


“We lost just a few minutes, it’s nothing,” said Peterhansel at the finish. “There’s only one day to go... It’s time to cross fingers and hope that we will be in first place at the end.”
The longest stage of the race, a 464-kilometer drive across sand dunes from AlUla to Yanbu brought a day of changing fortunes.
Peterhansel led with an advantage of more than three minutes over Al-Attiyah after 306 kilometers but suffered two punctures.
Khalid Al-Qassimi took the lead after 362 kilometers at which point Al-Attiyah had closed to within seven seconds of Peterhansel.
Peterhansel regained the lead and was 38 seconds ahead of the chasing Al-Attiyah 30 kilometers from the finish but could not hold the lead.
“Today it was really complicated, like the organizers said beforehand, like we expected it to be, because the navigation was not easy, but we got two punctures, especially the last one that was in the dunes,” the Frenchman said.
“They were really strange dunes,” he added. “In the middle of the dunes there were some rocks just after the crest of the dunes, so it was not easy to anticipate or to see. The last one was a very big impact and we had another puncture. We were a little bit afraid that also some part of the frame was broken, but at the end it was OK.”
Al-Attiyah, driving a Toyota, eventually crossed the line in 4hr 34min 24sec, 1min 56sec ahead of Peterhansel in his Mini.
“It really wasn’t easy,” said the Qatari, who also won the prologue.
“I am really happy to be here on day 11 without any technical problems with the car,” he added. “We have really had a lot of punctures. I’ve had more than 16 tires punctured. I am sure that 16 tires times one minute and a half each change is a lot.”
“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz in another Mini was a further 30 seconds back in third. Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi was fourth in a Toyota.
Briton Sam Sunderland, 2017 Dakar champion, won the motorbike category, the KTM rider timing 4hr 35min 21 sec for the stage, maintaining a comfortable 2:40 lead over the Husqvarna ridden by Pablo Quintanilla.
“I knew that today was one of my last chances to try to win and I gave my all, all day,” said Sunderland.
“We still have one day to go and many things can happen on one stage.”
Argentina’s Kevin Benavides increased his lead in the overall standings over American Honda teammate and defending champion Ricky Brabec to 7:13, with Sunderland currently second, at 4:12.
“We did a really good job with Ricky,” said Benavides, who broke his nose as he shattered his helmet jumping off a dune on stage five.
“It was a really hard day, very long with plenty of navigation, a lot of sand and dunes.”
Benavides added: “With Ricky we pushed together on the dunes... Tomorrow we will push like every day, no other strategy than that.
“There are no team orders and yes, the race is still open.”
There was drama on the stage as Spain’s Joan Barreda, a two-stage winner also on a Honda, exited the race after missing a refueling stop and subsequently running out of petrol.

 


Wenger lauds ‘genius’ of Fenerbahce-bound Ozil

Updated 19 January 2021

Wenger lauds ‘genius’ of Fenerbahce-bound Ozil

  • The 32-year-old, who is the club’s highest earner, has not played since March 2020

LONDON: Arsene Wenger has hailed the “genius” of Mesut Ozil after the Arsenal outcast confirmed he was leaving the Premier League club to join Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

The former Arsenal boss signed the German playmaker in 2013 but the relationship has turned sour under current manager Mikel Arteta.

The 32-year-old, who is the club’s highest earner, on a reported weekly salary of £350,000 ($475,000), has not played since March 2020. But Wenger said the former Germany international, who won the World Cup in 2014, was a rare talent.

“Mesut is like if you imagine an orchestra in music,” the Frenchman told beIN Sports Turkey.

“He’s a guy who plays the ball at the right time. The timing of his pass is exceptional, but the creativity of his pass is as well.

“In every situation he confronts, he gives the right answer and that is genius.”

Ozil has claimed he is in good physical condition despite his lengthy period on the sidelines but Wenger said his former player would take a few games to build up his “competitive fitness.”

“If his basic fitness in training is good, it will only take him three or four games to be at his best,” said Wenger.

“The quality that he has is... vision in depth. He sees quickly, he decides quickly and he realizes quickly what he sees. That is a quality you don’t find too often in our game.”

Wenger said Ozil would strengthen Fenerbahce’s bid to win the Turkish league for the first time since 2013/14.

“I’m sure that he’s frustrated at not having played,” he said. “His hunger must be absolutely (enormous) to play football again.

“Mesut is a guy who needs a warm environment and I believe he will find that more than anywhere else in Turkey.”

Ozil, who is of Turkish origin, was a key member of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning side but after what he labelled “racist” attacks following the holders’ first-round exit at the 2018 tournament, he ended his international career.

Fenerbahce, one of Istanbul’s three big clubs, are currently second in the Turkish Super Lig behind Besiktas.