Carlos Sainz now leads the Dakar Rally after winning Stage 3 while 2019 champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was penalised for impeding the Spaniard.
Sainz topped the 427km loop around Neom by 4:19s from Jakub Przygonski (Orlen X-raid Mini 4×4) and had initially been classified at the top of the overall rankings by 4:55s.
However, the X-raid JCW Buggy is now 7:55s up on Al-Attiyah, who remains second overall, after the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver had three minutes added to his stage time.
Al-Attiyah had been found to have not heeded the audible warnings from Sainz in sufficient time when the Spaniard caught him during the stage.
The penalty also means that Fernando Alonso, one of Al-Attiyah’s team-mates, was officially fourth for the stage, behind Yasir Seaidan (Race World Team Mini 4×4).
“I think it was a really nice stage, with fantastic landscapes,” said Sainz.
“There wasn’t much time to see it, but it was really nice. Lucas (Cruz) did a really good job with the navigation and we really attacked hard.
“On the last part of the stage we were opening the way, but it was okay.
“It’s still really early though. When you see racing on a day like this, anything can happen, you know.
“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 and Al-Attiyah had initially battled for the stage lead until the former pulled away between the latter waypoints.
Przygonski, however, was a late mover to second position in part due to the woes of Stephane Peterhansel in the other X-raid JCW Buggy.
‘Mr Dakar’ was only 37 seconds behind Sainz at the penultimate waypoint but then gave up almost another 10 minutes, which left him seventh for the stage and fifth overall at a deficit of 19 minutes.
Orlando Terranova (X-raid Mini 4×4), who started the day in the overall lead, is now third overall, one position ahead of Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Toyota).
Stage 2 winner Giniel De Villiers (Toyota Gazoo Racing) lost over 16 minutes relative to Sainz and slipped to seventh overall, with team-mate Alonso 32nd following his second day crash.
“It was not easy,” said De Villiers.
“The stages are quite tricky and obviously opening the road was difficult this morning because you need to make sure that you take the right tracks.
“Sometimes you have bikes going in the wrong direction and it makes it very stressful.”
In Trucks, Kamaz’s Andrey Karginov cut Siarhei Viazovich’s (Maz) overall lead to 2:18s with the stage victory but the former’s multiple Dakar-winning team-mate, Eduard Nikolaev, dropped half an hour.
Ignacio Casale missed out on a hat-trick of stage wins to start the event in Quads but extended his overall lead past 14 minutes, while Casey Currie moved to the top of the SSV classification and a 15-second advantage by winning the day.
Rodney Faggotter was 14th fastest on the day on his Yamaha, moving himself up to 15th overall.
Phillip Wilson (KTM) sits 81st, Ben Young (KTM) remains 88th, Trevor Colin Wilson (Husqvarna) is 108th, and Matthew Tisdall (KTM) is 124th.
The fourth stage takes the field to Al-‘Ula and is comprised of 453 competitive kilometres.
General classification: Cars (Top 10)
|4||Yazeed Al Rajhi||KSA||Toyota||+0:18:58|
|7||Giniel De Villiers||RSA||Toyota||+0:23:42|
|8||Bernhard ten Brinke||NED||Toyota||+0:33:23|