Defending Dakar Rally champion Al-Attiyah quits 2012 race

    Defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has been forced to pull out of the 2012 Dakar Rally with car trouble.

    Story highlights

    • Nasser Al-Attiyah pulls out of the 2012 Dakar Rally with car trouble
    • Defending champion's Hummer broke down on ninth stage of race
    • American Bobby Gordon wins the stage to close on Stephane Peterhansel
    • Cyril Despres regains the lead in the motorcylce race from Marc Coma
    Nasser Al-Attiyah has called time on the defense of his Dakar Rally title, pulling out of the 2012 race after problems with his car.
    The Qatari quit the annual race across South America after his temperamental Hummer broke down on the ninth stage between Antofagasta and Iquique in Chile.
    Al-Attiyah has endured a litany of problems with his vehicle since the start of the race on New Year's Day and threw in the towel after 174km of the ninth stage having made three unscheduled stops.
    American Bobby Gordon didn't have any such problems as he claimed his first stage win in the 2012 race to further close the gap on overall leader Stephane Peterhansel.
    The Frenchman -- a six-time motorbike and three-time car champion in the Dakar -- finished a minute and 38 seconds behind Gordon, with Spain's Nani Roma third.
    With four days remaining in the race Gordon, a NASCAR veteran, trails Peterhansel by nearly six minutes in the overall standings.
    He said: "We had a couple of big scary moments. For us, we've got to make time. We're in a different position to him (Peterhansel). He has to conserve his time and I've got to make it.
    "We've got four days left, four real days of racing left and the Hummer's strong. I can't believe he could catch us there, because we were going crazy. So he's a madman; if he beats us, he's a madman. Madder than me!"
    In the motorbike classification, Cyril Despres won stage nine to return to the top of the overall standings in his seesaw battle with Spain's Mark Como.
    The Frenchman, who got stuck in a patch of mud for ten minutes during stage eight, bounced back to triumph in the 606km stretch with Como coming in second.
    Despres now leads Como by two minutes 28 seconds in the overall standings. He told the Dakar Rally's official website: "After a difficult day yesterday when you start to doubt, I had to get back to winning ways.
    "It's very competitive. Like any top level sportsman, if you don't like confrontation or squeezing the last ounces of strength out of yourself, then you're not ready for a fight. But, as for me, I'm up for it."