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Al-Attiyah fastest again on day three

Nassar Al-AttiyahNassar Al-Attiyah took his second stage win of the 2009 Dakar Rally on day three, but a puncture meant he was unable to significantly reduce Carlos Sainz's overall lead.

X-Raid BMW driver Al-Attiyah had led the event after the opening stage, only to drop back when he went off-course on Sunday and struggled to find the correct route afterwards.

He looked set to make up for that today, when he reached the second checkpoint of the 551-kilometre Puerto Madryn to Jacobacci stage 2:45 faster than the rest of the field, but a puncture then cost him a lot of time in the final section.

Although Al-Attiyah still managed to win the stage, his margin over second-fastest man Sainz was eventually just 35 seconds, which means that the VW driver is now 3:40 ahead of Al-Attiyah in the overall standings.

"In the last 50 kilometres there was one bike that jumped in front of us and we hit some rocks and had to change the tyres," said Al-Attiyah, who still moved up from fourth to second on the leaderboard.

"I think it's cost us about two minutes, but really this was a very good run - no problems in all the 550 kilometres except the puncture. It's good we are here (at the finish) and the car is working very well. I think we did a good job today.

"We're taking care of the car because it's a long rally, but I think one day we must really push a lot to make good times. But at the moment it's good going and we'll see what happens."

Sainz's teammate Giniel de Villiers has dropped from second to third after a cautious run through today's stage.

It was a bad day for the usually-dominant Mitsubishi team, with 2006 Dakar victor Luc Alphand stopping for nearly half an hour in the stage with an apparent mechanical problem, and 2007 winner Stephane Peterhansel losing time to Al-Attiyah throughout the stage and finishing five and a half minutes off the pace. He is now fourth overall, ahead of teammate Joan Roma and VW's Mark Miller.

"We lost some diesel and we had to remove the fuel tank to repair it," said Alphand. "It meant we lost 30 minutes doing that.

"Here it is not such a disaster; we only lost 30 minutes. We've already lost Hiroshi (Masuoka) and that's worse. For the chances of victory, it's now a bit complicated."

Dieter Depping was third quickest in today's stage, but is over an hour behind the leaders in the overall times having suffered costly electrical problems on Saturday.

Stage three times:

Pos  Driver                Car         Time
 1.  Nassar Al-Attiyah     BMW         4h29.27
 2.  Carlos Sainz          VW          +    35
 3.  Dieter Depping        VW          +  1:40
 4.  Giniel de Villiers    VW          +  4:01
 5.  Stephane Peterhansel  Mitsubishi  +  5:31
 6.  Mark Miller           VW          +  8:00
 7.  Orlando Terranova     BMW         +  9:04
 8.  Joan Roma             Mitsubishi  +  9:15
 9.  Guerlain Chicherit    BMW         + 11:48
10.  Robby Gordon          Hummer      + 13:35

Overall positions:

Pos  Driver                Car         Time
 1.  Carlos Sainz          VW          9h04:48
 2.  Nassar Al-Attiyah     BMW         +  3:40
 3.  Giniel de Villiers    VW          +  5:45
 4.  Stephane Peterhansel  Mitsubishi  +  8:47
 5.  Joan Roma             Mitsubishi  + 14:22
 6.  Mark Miller           VW          + 15:45
 7.  Orlando Terranova     BMW         + 17:41
 8.  Krzysztof Holowczyc   Nissan      + 34:25
 9.  Robby Gordon          Hummer      + 34:32
10.  Luc Alphand           Mitsubishi  + 38:47

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