Neom, Saudi Arabia: Spain’s two-time champion Carlos Sainz, driving a Mini, shot into the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s third stage of the Dakar Rally, his 33rd stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.
Sainz clocked 3hr 48.01sec around the loop-shaped 489km route setting out from the future megalopolis of Neom, in the north of the kingdom close to the Jordanian border.
Racing over a sequence of canyons and mountains on sandy terrain, climbing to this year’s summit at 1,400 metres (4,593ft) in altitude, the 57-year-old Sainz beat home Qatar’s defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah, in his Toyota, by 3:31.
After struggling Monday, Attiyah’s teammate and ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso came in fifth. Overnight leader Orlando Terranova of Argentina and second stage winner Giniel de Villiers both trailed in behind Sainz.
Mini’s Terranova not only lost the lead in the general standings but finished 12:52 behind the stage winner, while De Villiers was 16:21 off the pace in his Toyota.
Wednesday’s fourth stage sees the rally leave northwestern Saudi Arabia, a 453km special on a mix of sandy stretches and gravel sections, mostly on tracks, past Nabaetean temples towards the historic walled city of Al Ula.