Nasser Al-Attiyah has continued his recovery with a second straight stage win on a day when another multi-time Dakar champion, Carlos Sainz, battled.
Al-Attiyah drove his Hilux to a 2:27s victory on Stage 3 in what was a Toyota Gazoo Racing one-two, while overall leader Stephane Peterhansel was third for the day at 4:05s off the pace.
The results on the 629km Wadi Ad-Dawasir loop stage (403km special) mean that Peterhansel’s advantage in the general classification is now 5:09s, with Al-Attiyah up to second and Mathieu Serradori (SRT Century) third at 26:21s back.
Another factory Hilux driver in Henk Lategan was fastest to Kilometre 43 and there were different pace-setters at each of the second and third waypoints before his Qatari team-mate grabbed an advantage at Kilometre 183 which he would not relinquish.
Al-Attiyah has now made up a total of 6:45s relative to the overall lead in the last two days, while Lategan’s second place for the stage has seen him climb to seventh in the general classification.
He sits 47:25s behind Peterhansel, who was never more than a handful of minutes away from the stage lead at any waypoint despite picking up a puncture along the way.
“Today it was a really complete stage,” said the Frenchman.
“At the beginning it was trial-like in the rocks, with the big rocks. On the first trial section we got a puncture, so after that I took it a little more safely in the rocks.
“After that, there were sometimes canyons, sandy canyons, nice dunes also and a fast plateau… It was a really good mix.
“The result is not perfect because of the puncture, but I’m really happy with the job done by Edouard Boulanger my co-pilot. In the complicated places, he did a really good job.
“I’m happy with the car and I’m happy with the co-pilot, so it’s good for the next day.”
Peterhansel’s fellow X-Raid Mini JCW buggy driver, on the other hand, had a far from straightforward day.
Sainz was in fact quickest to Kilometre 137 but subsequently got lost and incurred a puncture of his own.
The 2020 Dakar champion is now fourth overall, 33:34s behind his team-mate.
Jakub Przygonski (Orlen Toyota Hilux Overdrive) remains fifth in the general classification and Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) is now sixth.
Bernhard ten Brinke, a stage winner in 2018 and former factory Toyota driver, rolled his Overdrive Hilux late in the stage.
Kamaz’s Dmitry Sotnikov continues to hold sway in Trucks, by a slightly reduced margin of 16:56s.
In Quads, Giovanni Enrico (Enrico Racing Team) has taken over top spot and leads by 4:06s from Alexandre Giroud (Team Giroud).
Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez (South Racing Can-Am) remains on top in the SSV and Lightweight Vehicles classifications.
Stage 4 is an 813km trek to Riyadh, although with only a relatively short 337km special.
HIGHLIGHTS: Peterhansel and Boulanger change a tyre
General classification: Cars Top 10
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