Nasser Al-Attiyah claimed Mini’s first stage victory of the 2016 Dakar Rally, as Sebastien Loeb lost one hour and the lead after rolling.
With competitors getting their first proper taste of Dakar dunes as the event entered its second week, Al-Attiyah was the dominant force between Salta and Belen.
He was more than one minute faster than Loeb through to the first control point, and two minutes clear of the Frenchman’s Peugeot team-mate Carlos Sainz.
From there, Sainz went on a charge.
He cut Al-Attiyah’s lead to 15 seconds at the third control point, and led by 47 seconds at the final timing interval.
Al-Attiyah was able to fight back, though, to win the day by 12 seconds over Sainz and end Peugeot’s run of stage victories at seven.
Loeb’s hopes of winning the event in his first attempt appear over.
The nine-time WRC champion was running within one minute of Al-Attiyah before losing eight minutes when he got stuck in dunes.
There was worse to come. With approximately 20 of the day’s 335 miles remaining, the Peugeot rolled heavily.
After patching up their 2008 DKR, Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena eventually reached the end of the stage with a time 68 minutes slower than Al-Attiyah.
The pair fall to eighth in the overall standings, 65 minutes behind team-mate Stephane Peterhansel, who regained the lead despite losing six minutes himself due to a puncture.
“20 kilometres from the end at a large river, with the speed at around 120 kmh, there was a big hole and he crashed into the hole and rolled,” Peterhansel said of Loeb’s accident.
“I don’t know how many rolls, but he was OK, he was out of the car and told us it was OK and we could go.”
Sainz is now second, 2m9s behind Peterhansel, with Al-Attiyah 14m43s minutes behind.
One of the benefactors of Loeb’s troubled day, Miko Hirvonen was fifth for the day and moves up to fourth in the standings.