Sheikh Khalid continues to make steady progress after moving up to seventh in Dakar Rally

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For , the fourth stage of the Dakar Rally all-owed him to find a balance between attacking and taking what the gruelling course gives.

A sixth-place finish on the stage pushed the Abu Dhabi Racing and Peugeot Middle East driver up the standings and into seventh overall.

The day wasn’t without more obstacles to overcome, including a flat tyre after 70km, but Al Qassimi showed a greater comfort in the conditions and pushed when he found his opportunity.

“It was very rocky so I decided not to go in complete cruise mode because if we had another flat tyre then we would have more problems because we did not have another spare tyre,” Al Qassimi said.

“So we adopted a different strategy and came to a section where there was plenty of sand and dunes and blind corners, so I was worried about the bikers because the previous day I hit a bike.

“But anyway, we had a balanced pace and there were some difficult canyons that we had to drive through. I had to find a way to ent-er the canyons and then exit them which was a lot of effort.

“We came up across Cyril Despres who had stopped due to a broken rear suspension so I asked if I could do anything but he was ok waiting for team support.

“We lost a few minutes, but then that is part of the game. We also missed a couple of points and had to come back which cost us some minutes.

“We will try and maintain our balance and see how it goes from here.”

Late Wednesday night, Sebastien Loeb was forced to pull out of the Dakar rally after a back injury suffered by his co-driver in a disastrous fifth stage won by defending champion Stephane Peterhansel.

As Peterhansel took another important step towards his 14th Dakar title, Loeb’s dream of winning his first was left in tatters after his car twice ran into early sand trouble on the run from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipe in Peru.

The French ace’s hopes of adding a Dakar to his nine world rally championships at the third attempt had appeared encouraging after climbing to second in the standings following the fourth stage.

But instead he was left rebooking his flight home after his Peugeot became stuck in the dunes twice, with a truck having to help him out of a sand hole, costing him almost three hours.

Yet it was an injury suffered by co-driver Daniel Elena as they descended a dune that forced Loeb to bring a premature end to his 2018 Dakar, 10 days before the finish in Cordoba, Argentina.

“He screams as soon as I go over 30 km/h, I can’t see how we can go on like this,” explained Loeb.

He added: “It went badly, the dunes are too soft, we did not see the hole, we hit it hard … It’s over, Daniel is bad, but he’ll be okay. It’s so soft, without the (assistance) truck, we wouldn’t have got out,” Loeb told France Television.

After his fourth stage win on Tuesday Loeb was placed seven minutes second to Peterhansel in another Peugeot.

France’s ‘Mr Dakar’ has won the car title seven times with a further six titles on two wheels, the first coming way back in 1991.

Honda’s Spanish rider Joan Barreda Hort won the motorbike stage with Yamaha’s Adrien van Beveren retaining the overall lead.

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Former Chelsea and Tottenham boss Villas-Boas withdraws from Dakar Rally after accident

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Portuguese football coach André Villas-Boas has been forced out of the Dakar Rally after hurting his back on Tuesday’s fourth stage, his team Toyota Overdrive said.

The former Chelsea and Tottenham coach jolted his back after his car went airborne off a sand dune and made a hard landing, Toyota said in a statement.

“Medical examinations show no broken bones,” but Villas-Boas is in pain and he and his co-pilot Ruben Faria are out of the 9,000km rally, the team added.

Villas-Boas, 40, taking part in his first ever rally, had made a difficult debut in the sports most demanding race, and was 2hr 18min 50sec behind the leader after the third stage.

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Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi moves into Dakar Rally top 10, Sam Sunderland retires injured

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Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi is relishing the various challenges the Dakar Rally brings as he moved up into 10th overall on a day featuring more obstacles.

This time, a 100km stretch of sand dunes coupled with distractions from the bikes category forced the Abu Dhabi Racing and Peugeot Middle East driver to be on top of his game.

The result was Al Qassimi moving up one place in the overall standings in the Pisco-San Juan De Marcona stage on day three.

“Today was a tough yet good day for us. I was following a balanced rhythm in order to avoid making any mistakes, but the Dakar is known for the surprises it can throw up along the way.

“We faced navigational challenges over the opening 30km but everything went well thereafter until we caught up with the bikes that had started ahead of us.

“We saw a lot of bikes struggling ahead of us in the dunes; some of the bikes were stuck in the sand 50km from the start.

“We tried to ride away from the bikes as they were blocking us, in the process I got stuck twice and lost precious time.

“I hit a bike ahead of me on a small dune, but fortunately the rider was fine. However, we had to stop to help him and to remove the bike that had got stuck under our car.

“Overall it was a good day for us, the distractions we faced were part of the challenges. I am now looking forward to continue with the rally in a balanced rhythm and hopefully without any problems.”

Late Tuesday night, reigning Dakar Rally motorcycle champion Sam Sunderland dropped out of the race with a back injury, allowing Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren to take the overall lead after winning the fourth stage.

Sunderland, riding for dominant team KTM and leading the overall rankings coming into yesterday’s stage in San Juan de Marcona, withdrew after injuring his back while entering a jump, according to the rally organisers.

He had to be evacuated by helicopter after suffering the accident.


Van Beveren finished five minutes ahead of team-mate Xavier de Soultrait and seven minutes in front of the Austrian KTM rider Matthias Walkner.

The Yamaha rider takes the lead in the overall standings, 1 minute 55 seconds ahead of Chilean Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna.

The UAE’s Mohammed Al Balooshi, meanwhile, finished stage four in 31st, 39 minutes, 50 seconds off Van Beveren’s pace.

Al Balooshi will attempt to fight his way back from 31st overall, where he is over one hour and 42 minutes away from the lead.

The 40th edition of the Dakar Rally takes place on the South American continent for the 10th time, with drivers getting the opportunity to re-acquaint themselves with the Pacific Ocean and the Peruvian dunes.

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