WADI AL DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia – Spanish Mini driver Carlos Sainz was the fastest in the Dakar Rally’s stage seven on Sunday and added to his lead in the general rankings over Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah (Toyota) and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel (Mini).
Sainz thus bagged his third stage win at this edition of the race, held for the first time in Saudi Arabia. This time it was the longest of the whole race, a 546-kilometer timed run between Riyadh and Wadi Al Dawasir.
The Spaniard crossed the finish point two minutes and 12 seconds ahead of the Qatari runner-up for the stage and almost three minutes ahead of Peterhansel.
The man from Madrid therefore keeps his place at the top of the general classification, now with a 10-minute advantage over Al Attiyah, the winner of last year’s Dakar Rally, and 19 over the Frenchman, who has won it 13 times, six times on a motorcycle and seven in a car.
Sainz took advantage of the fact that Peterhansel, his teammate, was in charge of opening the track on the seventh stage.
The Mini buggy showed it was capable of a fast performance both on dunes and dirt roads, the likes of which featured in the earlier stages of this year’s race.
Ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (Toyota) same sixth in stage seven, the fourth time he has finished in the top 10.
Sunday’s race was overshadowed by the death of Portuguese motorcyclist Paulo Gonçalves, who came of his bike at high speed.
In a statement, organizers said: “Paulo Gonçalves, racing on motorbike no. 8, has passed away from a fall sustained 276 kilometres into today’s special. The organisers received an alert at 10:08 and dispatched a medical helicopter that reached the biker at 10:16 and found him unconscious after going into cardiac arrest.”
The motorbike stage was eventually won by Argentine Kevin Benavides (Honda), who was compensated for time he spent trying to help Gonçalves.
American rider Ricky Brabec continues to lead the general rankings.