Al-Attiyah Wins Stage, Later Disqualified

Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah did win the 6th stage of the Dakar Rally more than 5 minutes ahead of the competition but is likely to face disqualification for missing several waypoints on Thursday. The day started with a drastic decision taken by the rally organizers to shorten the stage, after finding an impassible river ford in the San Rafael to Mendoza route.

Al-Attiyah got into an early lead and looked set to further increase his advantage in the overall standings. The BMW driver crossed the finish line more than 5 minutes ahead of South African Giniel de Villiers and some 8 minutes faster than Carlos Sainz. However, after a thorough check from the race organizers, it seems the Qatari missed no less than 9 waypoints in the process.

His car had some overheating problems before heading into the dunes and Al-Attiyah decided not to risk a complete engine failure by forcing his way into that section of the route. Consequently, he missed a total of 9 waypoints and was excluded from the competition at the finish line. According to the Dakar rulebook, missing 5 or more consecutive waypoints leads to automatic exclusion from the rally.

“I'm extremely disappointed. Yesterday, I was leading the race by a comfortable margin, now I'm out. But I respect their decision. My motor was overheating, I was just 30 km away from the finish line, so I decided not to stop at the checkpoint. The penalty is fair and entirely legitimate,” said Al-Attiyah yesterday, in an interview with France 24.

Consequently, Giniel de Villiers, the VW driver who finished yesterday's stage in second place and used to trail Al-Attiyah for 1st place in the overall standings has now become the new leader.

“It was quite tricky in the beginning in the dunes. 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 end of the stage was quite easy. In the Dakar, every day you have to finish the stage without problems and so far the Touareg is going very well. We've had no problems so far. There's still a week to go, so we need to keep it there in terms of our speed and reliability,” said Villiers after the stage.

Third overall in the chaotic stage was VW's Mark Miller. The American is now third overall in the rally classification, following Al-Attiyah's disqualification. Carlos Sainz, who lost 3 and a half minutes to Villiers during yesterday's stage is now trailing the South African for the overall lead.
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