Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Britain’s Sam Sunderland Ascent Dakar Glory

Qatari driver Nasser al-Attiyah and British rider Sam Sunderland are just one safely navigating the stage away from celebrating victory in the Dakar rally after Thursday’s final day of action.

Three-time champion Al-Attiyah has a 28-minute advantage over nine-time world rally champion Sebastian Loeb of France ahead of Friday’s 164-kilometer special.

Loeb on Thursday reduced the lead of 51-year-old Al-Atiyah by four minutes in the 346km race won by Spanish veteran Carlos Sanz in his Audi hybrid.

It was the 41st Dakar stage success of the career for the 59-year-old, who is also a three-time winner of the race.

Al-Atiyah – who also won a bronze medal in shooting at the 2012 Olympics – said he would play safely on Friday.

“Just losing four minutes or something for an apple, that’s nothing, you know?” He said.

“We are fine. Tomorrow is a small phase.

“It simply came to our notice then. Winning this race is very important.

“Dakar is not easy to control, but I think we have a lot of experience now and we just need to manage and end the situation.”

Sunderland are very close to winning the bike title for the second time. In 2017 he became the first Briton to win any series of fierce rallies.

The 32-year-old Dubai-based KTM rider has a nearly seven-minute lead over Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla after a runner-up on Thursday’s stage behind Argentina’s 2021 champion Kevin Benavids.

This is the sixth time that Sunderland has taken an overall lead in this year’s event and he has experienced enough that he cannot be considered to have won the race before Friday’s final.

Britain only needs overnight leader Adrian van Beveren as a reference point for what could go wrong – the Frenchman lost four kilometers on stage and is now more than 15 minutes away from speed.

“I feel really good and looking forward to tomorrow,” Sunderland said.

“The race doesn’t happen until you pass that checkered flag on the last stage.

“As far as we know, navigation on this race is really difficult. The race was really difficult because, as you can see, time is very close every day.

“I will try to do a clean stage tomorrow and hopefully we can get it done.”

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