al-attiyah-portrait-dakar-stage-11 Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Photofiles

The image of the ecstatic mechanics pounding on his VW Touareg's hood and roof at the finish line in the San Juan bivouac leaves no doubt: unless a disaster happens, Nasser Al-Attiyah will be the 2011 Dakar Rally winner.

Such is the state of affairs following Stage 11, in which Nasser's main rival, Volkswagen Motorsport teammate and defending champion Carlos Sainz, lost about one hour repairing his right-front wheel after hitting a hole.

Al-Attiyah now leads another teammate, former winner Giniel de Villiers, by nearly 52 minutes, with just one ‘serious’ stage to go, Friday's 345-mile trek from San Juan to Cordoba.

"It's time for a conservative pace…'"–Nasser Al-Attiyah

“I think I'll let [co-driver] Timo [Gottschalk] drive now,” joked Nasser, referring to his need to take things “very easy” on Stage 12.

“I do have a big lead now, so it's time for a conservative pace tomorrow," he adds. “There are still two tough days to come.”

null Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Photofiles

As for Sainz's situation, Al-Attiyah was philosophical. “That's rallying. He was pushing hard to catch up and these things can happen.”

Following Friday's SS12, the 2011 Dakar wraps up on Saturday with a short 112-mile run from Cordoba to the finish line in Buenos Aires.

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