He may have lost the Dakar. It is possible that he did it in that first stage in which he spent two hours trying to validate a hidden point of passage that led almost everyone down the street of bitterness. But Carlos Sainz does not give his arm to twist. He knows there is a lot of Dakar left. And, above all, passion and competitiveness can. He was always one of those drivers who preferred to bet on winning than to play with the idiosyncrasy of a Rally that does not always reward the fastest. But each one runs with its principles. And Sainz’s is speed. He pulled from it in this third stage of the Dakar that was held around Al-Qaisumah, the special timed test reduced by about 100 kilometers as a result of the rains of the preceding days.
Even so, Sainz had meters to spare to fly. He was the first to cross the finish line. And the one that did it in less time. He won the stage. The 40 in your record. The first in this year’s race. The first also for a vehicle of the T1-Ulimate category, those that bet on low combustion, such as the hybrid Audi from Madrid powered by electric power.
It was, however, his great rival in recent years, Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota), the great winner of the day. The triumph of Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive) the day before cost the Frenchman dearly. It opened track and to the hesitations added two punctures that gave wings to the Qatari. Loeb ended up crossing the line 33 minutes behind Sainz while Al-Attiyah did so in eighth position, five minutes behind the Spaniard. He is a little more leader of the general, where he takes more than 37 minutes to Loeb. Something that, on the other hand, does not surprise anyone. He was one of the few who did not hesitate when the navigation got more complicated. It is very fast. And make few mistakes. The best cover letter to win the Dakar. Although there is still a world.
Nani Roma (Prodrive), by the way, finished another good day with a fourth place on the stage, just over two minutes behind Sainz.
Sunderland, new leader in motorcycles
In the motorcycle category, the Spanish Joan Barreda (Honda) accused the responsibility of opening the track. And although he closed the day without major setbacks on a stage with heavy sand and a better grip thanks to the rains, in addition to some 30 kilometers of dunes, he ended up giving 10 minutes to the winner. It was a fast stage with 24 drivers classified in the first positions and separated by those scarce 10 extra minutes with which Barreda now carries.
The winner of the stage was the Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero), who opens his record of victories. He finished ahead of the very fast Toby Price, second, after the favorite of the day and until this Monday leader of the general Daniel Sanders gave a few precious minutes in the last kilometers.
The Australian stopped to eat something. I was hungry. Dakar stuff. The lead, however, had been lost before taking the start. He was penalized 10 minutes for not respecting a controlled speed zone the day before. He is now fifth, nine minutes behind Sam Sunderland (GasGas), the new leader. Barreda, 12th, is 23 minutes away.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.