TOYOTA ROOKIE SEES OFF MINIS:Toyota's Saudi Arabian Dakar Rally rookie Yazeed al-Rajhi won Sunday's Dakar rally stage and ended Mini's run of wins from all stages until then. Image: AP<
IQUIQUE, Chile - Toyota's Saudi Arabian Dakar Rally rookie Yazeed al-Rajhi claimed his maiden stage win after a spectacular sand-dune finish to Stage 8 Iquique on Sunday to break Mini's stranglehold on this year's race.
Nevertheless, as the Toyota driver celebrated his landmark day on the world's toughest rally, his Qatari rival and 2011 Dakar winner Nasser al-Attiyah did enough in his Mini in third to consolidate his position at the top of the drivers' standings.
He even gained a few seconds on his closest pursuer, South Africa's Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), who finished fourth. Up to this win for Toyota, each stage had been won by one of the Minis.
Sunday's 808km run, with 784km timed, took al-Rajhi and the rest of the car competitors from Bolivia's high salt flats in Uyuni to the vertiginous dunes of the Chilean Pacific coastal city of Iquique.
Al-Rajhi covered the route in three hours, 26 minutes and 49 seconds with Saturday's stage winner Orlando Terranova second in another Mini, more than a minute behind.
Al-Attiyah, a further 2min30 back in third, has an almost 8min30 lead over De Villiers, the South African in his SA-built Hilux bakkie, losing precious time in the final dunes on the approach to Iquique, in the race for the Drivers crown.
Al-Rajhi, who remains in contention for the Drivers' crown in third place but 18min40 behind, said: "Today was a good day. "We drove fast and we had fun. The most difficult part was organising toilet stops!
"At such altitudes (up to 4000m) just a sip of water makes you want to go... The in-line start in Salar was great and carried out under good conditions. We didn't have the highest top speed but we managed to catch up with the others.
"It was a bit like a game."
Terranova described the marathon stage as "an awesome experience".
Monday (today, Jan 12) is a rest day for the car drivers ahead of Saturday's (Jan 17) finish in Buenos Aires. After Saturday's day off for motorcyclists the 717km (321km timed) Stage 7 which took the two-wheeled competitors from Iquique to Uyuni was won by Honda's Paulo Goncalves.
The Portuguese rider is third in the overall motorbike standings, 11min behind his Spanish team mate Joan Barreda, with this pair separated by KTM's defending champion Marc Coma.
Coma, a four-times winner, is six minutes adrift back.
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