Sainz gives electric Audi historic Dakar stage win

Sainz Carlos. Picture: Florent Gooden/DPPI

Carlos Sainz has driven his electric Audi RS Q e-tron to a history-making Dakar Rally stage win.

The victory is the first for a car in the T1-Ultimate subclass dedicated to alternatively-powered vehicles, which was introduced ahead of this year’s Dakar.

Stage 3 also represented a big day for another three-time Dakar champion, namely Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah.

The Qatari now holds a commanding, 37:40s overall lead after his nearest rival, Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb, spent most of the stage in front-wheel drive due to a drivetrain failure.

In what was a shortened, 255km special around Al Qaisumah featuring firm, wet sand, Loeb led the Cars field out as a result of setting the fastest time on Stage 2.

Around 10 minutes later, his Prodrive Hunter suffered the mechanical problem, which plagued him for nearly 250km.

While Loeb made the finish line, and retains second position for the rally as a whole, he gave up more than 29 minutes relative to Al-Attiyah.

“It was a bad day for us,” admitted the nine-time World Rally Champion.

“We broke the car’s prop shaft so we lost four-wheel-drive.

“Doing this stage with two-wheel-drive was really tough. I’m happy to reach the end of the stage.”

It was indeed a factory Toyota Hilux driver setting the early pace, but rather than Al-Attiyah, that was Henk Lategan.

The South African was fastest to each of the first three waypoints but Sainz was sticking within seconds of Lategan’s times.

The Spaniard hit the front at the Kilometre 332 waypoint (noting that the stage start had been moved), and ultimately beat the #225 Hilux to stage honours by 38 seconds.

Team Audi Sport ended the day with all three of its RS Q e-trons in the top five, Stephane Peterhansel finishing the special 1:41s slower than Sainz and Mattias Ekstrom 2:59s off the pace.

However, after a nightmare Stage 1B, Ekstrom is best-placed of the trio in the overall classification in 19th position.

Sainz, who got lost two days earlier, is 26th overall at 2:19:21s behind Al-Attiyah, while Peterhansel, who broke an axle when he hit a rock on Stage 1B, is 71st.

Al-Attiyah was only eighth-fastest for the stage, but his chances of a fourth Dakar title have firmed significantly.

“We tried to minimise risk today and finish the stage without any problems,” he said.

“I think we’re in a good position for tomorrow’s long and difficult stage.”

Behind Al-Attiyah and Loeb at the top of the overall classification is Overdrive Toyota’s Lucio Alvarez at another 4:26s back, from Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Giniel De Villiers and Overdrive Toyota’s Yazeed Al Rajhi.

In 11th overall is Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Nani Roma, who was fourth-quickest on the day.

Next up is the longest stage of the rally, the 465km special taking the field south to the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, with a mixture of fast tracks, dunes, and a rocky finish.

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General classification: Cars Top 10

Pos Driver Co-driver Team Time/Gap
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah Matthieu Baumel Toyota Gazoo Racing 09:31:22
2 Sebastien Loeb Fabian Lurquin Bahrain Raid Xtreme +0:37:40
3 Lucio Alvarez Armand Monleon Overdrive Toyota +0:42:06
4 Giniel De Villiers Dennis Murphy Toyota Gazoo Racing +0:45:22
5 Yazeed Al Rajhi Michael Orr Overdrive Toyota +0:47:29
6 Vladimir Vasilyev Oleg Uperenko VRT Team +0:49:33
7 Martin Prokop Viktor Chytka Benzina Orlen Team +0:54:46
8 Sebastian Halpern Bernardo Graue X-Raid Mini JCW Team +1:01:32
9 Jakub Przygonski Timo Gottschalk Orlen Team +1:06:47
10 Orlando Terranova Daniel Oliveras Carreras Bahrain Raid Xtreme +1:08:04

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