X-raid Mini’s Stéphane Peterhansel continues to lead the Dakar Rally after the third stage but team-mate Carlos Sainz’s victory hopes took a blow as a navigational error cost the Spaniard over half an hour.
Sainz, who started the 250.4-mile Wadi Ad-Dawasir loop second in the overall classification to Peterhansel, had been ahead in the stage by around 25 seconds before drifting off course after the fourth waypoint.
The triple Dakar winner reportedly drove for 1.2 miles in the wrong direction before getting back on track, dropping 31 minutes and two places in the overall classification to fourth as a result.
Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al Rajhi, with whom Sainz was trading fastest waypoint times, also hit trouble during the same section. The Saudi driver, in a Toyota Hilux, got lost and then stopped twice on the stage, dropping over 43 minutes.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah won the stage, his second in a row, to close the gap to overall leader Peterhansel to just over five minutes, having started the stage nine minutes behind the Frenchman overall.
SRT Racing’s Mathieu Serradori stayed out of trouble in his Century CR6 to set the seventh fastest stage time and cement third place overall, while maintaining a strong starting position for stage four tomorrow.
The first loop stage of the 2021 Dakar produced something of a shake-up to the natural order during the opening waypoint sections as competitors battled with the combination of soil and sandy tracks for the opening 26 miles.
Al-Attiyah started the stage having won yesterday’s second test and only dropped 1m38s to TGR team-mate Henk Lategan who set the early pace.
Double South African Cross-Country champion Lategan, who started 14th on the road, lost ground to Al Rajhi in the second waypoint as the Saudi driver moved 56s ahead.
Sainz was just eight seconds adrift of Al Rajhi at WP2, having recouped the two minutes he lost at the first split, and the double World Rally Champion then gapped Al Rajhi by 25 seconds at the next before hitting trouble.
But Sainz encountered navigational issues during the second stage when he and co-driver Lucas Cruz struggled to find the penultimate waypoint, which cost the defending event winners almost six minutes. The impact on stage three was far more catastrophic with a loss of over half an hour to the leaders.
“A very difficult stage for us today,” said Sainz. “We had problems finding a waypoint and consequently lost more than half an hour. That is a lot, and is a great pity. However, there is nothing we can do about it now. We will push on and see what is still possible.”
Co-driver Cruz added: “I thought we were at one waypoint, but we were actually at another. I believed we had to turn left, so we did, but we ended up lost.”
That allowed Al-Attiyah, who had been just under a minute behind Sainz at the time, to assume the advantage in the stage. The Qatari then proceeded to top the times at the remaining waypoints en route to his second successive stage win.
Behind Al-Attiyah was the impressive Lategan, who continued to use his favorable road position to put in consistently fast times in the second half of the stage. The South African finished just 2m27s off the pace of Al-Attiyah and 1m18s ahead of Peterhansel. He is now up to seventh in the overall standings.
Peterhansel himself lost time at the start of the stage when he and co-driver Edouard Boulanger were forced to change a puncture left-front tire, but the pair were able to limit the damage.
Behind Sainz, X-raid Team’s Jakub Przygónski is fifth overall, 44 minutes off the lead after setting the 11th best stage time, ahead of Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sébastien Loeb.
Loeb and Daniel Elena were in the wars again on the third stage, despite showing strong pace during the test.
The nine-time World Rally Champion was only just over two minutes down on Al-Attiyah at the midway point but three punctures on his Prodrive-run 4×4 cost him over six minutes between the final waypoint and the finish of the timed section.
A number of other competitors also had difficulties during the stage, including Lategan and Al-Attiyah’s TGR team-mate Giniel de Villiers who, for the second day running, was denied a strong stage result due to misfortune.
The Toyota driver lost 22 minutes before the third waypoint and dropped to 39th in the classification.
Brian Baragwanath, the star of the prologue, also lost a lot of ground during the stage, dropping 24 minutes on the same section which affected Sainz and Al Rajhi. Loeb’s BRX team-mate Nani Roma also hit trouble.
Al Rajhi’s Overdrive Racing team-mate Bernhard Ten Brinke was also in contention for a top five stage result until the Dutchman rolled his Toyota Hilux in the final section.
Close battles in SSV classes
The SSVs produced another closely fought stage, with T4 class leader Francisco Lopez Contardo putting in an impressive surge in the final section to overhaul Austin Jones to win the stage.
Jones, driving the Monster Energy Can-Am, led for the majority of the stage after starting eighth on the road, but dropped 28 seconds behind Lopez Contardo, who himself made up more than three minutes after the last waypoint.
Khalid Al-Attiyah – brother of Nasser – also enjoyed a strong stage in his South Racing Can-Am, setting the fourth fastest T4 time.
Lopez Contardo currently holds a six-minute lead over Aron Domzala, with Jones 7m13s off the pace.
After becoming the youngest Dakar stage winner yesterday, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Seth Quintero recorded another stage win – placing fourth in the SSV category – in his OT3 T3.1.
The teenager beat his team-mates Mitch Guthrie and class leader Cristina Gutierrez in the stage and has closed the gap in the overall classification to the latter to just over eight minutes.
Gutierrez struck problems early in the stage, dropping 17 minutes before the fourth waypoint, but miraculously recovered eight of those minutes in the final section to minimize the damage done by Quintero overall.
It was another day of incident for Kris Meeke in the PH Sport T3. The former WRC driver, who suffered a fire caused by a spare tire igniting from the exhaust on stage one, got stuck in the dunes and was forced to get a tow back to the bivouac. He is set to restart again tomorrow.
Stage 3 (Wadi Ad-Dawasir – Wadi Ad-Dawasir) result
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) 3h17m39s
2 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2m27s
3 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) +4m05s
4 Yasir Seaidan/Alexey Kuzmich (SRT Racing Century) +7m09s
5 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +12m31s
6 Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +13m14s
7 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Team) +13m42s
8 Mathieu Serradori/Fabian Lurquin (SRT Racing Century City Team) +16m05s
9 Wei Han/Min Liao (Quzhou Motorsport) +17m49s
10 Cyril Desprès/Mike Horn (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +19m05s
21 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +31m02s
Overall classification after Stage 3
1 Peterhansel/Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 10h39m02s
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +5m09s
3 Serradori/Lurquin (SRT Racing Century) +26m21s
4 Sainz/Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +33m34s
5 Przygónski/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +44m22s
6 Loeb/Elena (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +45m49s
7 Lategan/Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +47m25s
8 Seaidan/Kuzmich (SRT Racing Century) +51m50s
9 Al Qassimi/Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +52m08s
10 Prokop/Chytka (Orlen Team) +56m30s