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Al-Attiyah fastest in sixth Dakar stage

Nasser Al-Attiyah, BMW, 2009 DakarDakar Rally leader Nasser Al-Attiyah set the best time in Thursday's shortened sixth stage of the event, but the Qatari is likely to receive a penalty for missing a waypoint.

The BMW driver finished the 175-km special in two hours and seven minutes, over five minutes ahead of Volkswagen's Giniel de Villiers.

Today's stage was shortened significantly after organisers found an impassable river ford in the scheduled route.

Al-Attiyah, who retook the lead yesterday, admitted he intentionally missed a waypoint in order to avoid the dunes, as his car's engine was overheating too much.

The former Olympic skeet shooter, who had already suffered overheating problems yesterday, said he was unsure if he would be able to continue in the rally unless his team managed to fix the issues.

"We missed a waypoint because we couldn't climb the dunes," said Al-Attiyah. "And the engine had a very high temperature. When it reached 120 (degrees) the engine stopped and I preferred not to stay in the dunes.

"When we pushed the engine temperature went up. If we can't repair the engine I think we cannot continue. Bad news, but we'll see."

Mark Miller was third for Volkswagen, and the American admitted he was surprised to see Al-Attiyah reaching the finish line ahead of him.

"We battled a little bit with the Hummer (Robbie Gordon) in the dunes and I kind of lost my rhythm," said Miller. "We lost a little bit of time in there. But the rest of the day was smooth for us.

"I was surprised to see Nasser, because he had pulled out on the side of the road. To see him in front of us was a complete surprise."

Carlos Sainz finished in fourth position, over eight minutes behind Al-Attiyah, with Stephane Peterhansel in fifth in the first of the Mitsubishis.

Former Dakar winner Luc Alphand, one of the favourites to fight in front this year, was forced to withdraw from the event during today's stage after his co-pilot Gilles Picard suffered from health problems.

As a precautionary measure, Picard was evacuated to the bivouac in Mendoza, where the doctors reported nothing serious. Nonetheless, the Mitsubishi duo is out of the rally.

Provisional stage 6 results:

Pos  Driver          Car            Time
 1.  Al Attiyah      BMW            2h07:26
 2.  De Villiers     Volkswagen    +  05:07
 3.  Miller          Volkswagen    +  05:27
 4.  Sainz           Volkswagen    +  08:37
 5.  Peterhansel     Mitsubishi    +  13:14
 6.  Roma            Mitsubishi    +  14:20
 7.  Holowczyc       Nissan        +  19:59
 8.  Tollefsen       Nissan        +  37:14
 9.  Gordon          Hummer        +  37:30
10.  Kahle           Honda         +  37:54
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