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Lategan finally delivers Dakar stage win after near misses

January 6, 2022 GMT

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — After two days of near-misses, Henk Lategan finally delivered his first stage win in the Dakar Rally on Thursday, a year after crashing out at the same point in his debut.

Lategan took over the lead about halfway through the 420-kilometer loop course out of Saudi capital Riyadh when reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel stopped to donate his suspension to teammate Carlos Sainz. Lategan stayed in front and the South African was first home after four hours, about two minutes ahead of Sebastien Loeb.

Lucio Alvarez of Argentina and Matthieu Serradori of France were a close third and fourth.

The fifth stage was another stressful one for Lategan, though. His door broke and was flapping for 30 kilometers until he fixed it. But when they punctured, he had to exit through his navigator’s window.

“We’ve had just the craziest day,” Lategan said. ”I can’t actually believe that we have won the stage. It doesn’t make sense. The whole race has been really on top of the world and then right back down to earth. The Dakar has a way of keeping you humble.”

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He has been out of title contention since Sunday — day two — when he lost three hours. But Lategan was second on Tuesday’s stage and among the leaders after 300 kilometers on Wednesday until he smashed his rear right wheel. He’s determined to finish the world’s toughest rally.

His Toyota teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah was five minutes behind in eighth and remained the overall leader.

Loeb gained three minutes racing with Al-Attiyah to be 35 minutes behind the Qatari. Third overall was Alvarez, 51 minutes behind.

Meanwhile, three-time champion Sainz lost another hour and eight-time winner Peterhansel was three hours behind.

Danilo Petrucci became the first MotoGP rider to win a Dakar motorbike stage when he was promoted to first after two-time champion Toby Price was penalized.

Price, starting 27th, was among the leaders all day, notably when the stage was cut short because of demands put on medical aircraft. But the Australian was penalized six minutes for speeding, and Petrucci was given the win. Ross Branch of Botswana was just two seconds behind, and Jose Ignacio Cornejo of Chile another three seconds back.

Petrucci was stopped by a fuel pump issue on Monday but decided to continue his Dakar debut with an 11-hour time penalty. The Italian’s perseverance paid off.

The overall top four stayed the same: Sam Sunderland, Matthias Walkner, Adrien van Beveren and Daniel Sanders, all within eight minutes.

U.S. rider Skyler Howes, who started the day eighth overall, was riding in the top three for the first half of the stage but hit his head in a fall. He injured his ankle and shoulder and finished but was taken to hospital and withdrawn.

Joan Barreda, the winner on Wednesday, also suffered a fall and injured a shoulder but the Portuguese will wait until Friday morning to decide whether to keep racing.

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