Thu, Jan 09, 2020 - Page 16 News List

Sainz seizes the lead on day three of the Dakar Rally


Driver Vladimir Vasilyev of Russia and codriver Vitaly Yevtyekhov of the Ukraine steer their Mini in the third stage of the Dakar Rally to NEOM, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday.

Photo: AFP

Two-time champion Carlos Sainz on Tuesday seized the lead of the Dakar Rally after winning the third stage looping around the planned mega-city of NEOM in the Saudi Arabian desert.

The Spaniard, driving a Mini buggy, led Toyota’s defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar by four minutes, 55 seconds after the 427km loop that extended close to the Jordanian border.

“We spent a lot of time and a lot of kilometres pushing hard, but you never know — anything can happen any day. The navigation is also tricky — but so far, so good,” Sainz said.

Overnight leader Orlando Terranova dropped to third, eight minutes off the pace, after the Argentine completed the stage nearly 13 minutes slower than Sainz.

Three drivers have won the opening stages of the first Dakar to be held in the Middle East, after more than a decade in South America.

The stage win was a career 33rd for Sainz, a double world rally champion who is also father of the McLaren Formula One (F1) driver with the same name.

Fernando Alonso, the first F1 world champion to compete in the Dakar, came back strongly from a difficult Monday, when he smashed a wheel and suspension, losing more than two-and-a-half hours.

The Spaniard was the fifth-fastest driver in the stage, but still 2 hours, 40 minutes behind Sainz and 32nd in the overall classification.

“Hopefully I can take advantage of the good starting position tomorrow or in the next few days to try something else and be among the first three — or hopefully win a stage, which would be magical,” he said.

Khalid al-Qassimi of the United Arab Emirates, seventh overall on Monday night, ended his involvement in the rally after crashing and rolling his privately entered Peugeot.

In the motorcycle category, Ricky Brabec of the US won the stage on his Honda and took over the lead from Britain’s Sam Sunderland.

Monday’s stage winner Ross Branch injured his shoulder in a crash at the 88km mark that cost the Botswana-born rider more than one hour.

“I took a bend a little too wide and there was a rock that I hit with my back wheel. It threw me off the bike and I’m feeling a little battered — but that’s just the race, I suppose,” he said.

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