Image: Baragwanath flies to sixth
Daniel Sanders, Austin Jones and Nasser Al-Attiyah had days to remember during Tuesday's Stage Three at the 45th edition of motorsport’s toughest test of endurance, the Dakar Rally.
Rain disrupted Stage Three with the last 100km of the race track washed away, however defending car champion Nasser Al-Attiyah built on Monday's Stage Two victory with a solid day to claim the overall lead as Carlos Sainz was halted for almost half an hour in his Audi RS Q e-tron E2.
Australian Sanders excelled again as the Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing bike rider won to cut Mason Klein's overall lead to 1m48s. The 28-year-old – known in the bivouac as Chucky - said: "The idea was to win the stage by catching the guys in front and it's worked out really well."
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are also in the overall bike top five thanks to Argentine Kevin Benavides, while team-mates and fellow former Dakar winners Toby Price and Matthias Walkner are in the top 10.
Good news continued for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich as American Austin Jones won the stage, while compatriot Seth Quintero took the overall T3 lead with Lithuanian Rokas Baciuška's third place in T4 boosting him up to fourth overall.
South African crews continue to star
All-South African crews, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings’ Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century starred on a tough Dakar Day 3.
Lategan chased day winners Frenchmen Guerlain Chicherit Alex Winocq’s Prodrive Hunter all the way to a literal early shower. Organisers stopped the race early when a thunderstorm threatened safety, but not before Daniel Sanders had secured a dominant bike win for GasGas.
Following among the toughest opening two days many care to remember on the Dakar, Tuesday’s 447 km Day 3 run through the canyons from Ha’il to Al’ula and promised another torturous day of racing. And that it delivered. The race took its toll as the car frontrunners struggled to find the way, while Monday’s entire top ten ran outside of Tuesday’s top ten.
CARS: CHICHERIT FIGHTS LATEGAN OFF
Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr’s Hilux led Chicherit and Lategan early on. Al Rajhi later dropped back to third as Lategan took the lead by passing Chicherit, who started well back on the road after Monday’s troubles. Orlando Terranova and Alex Bravo ‘s Hunter followed from Al Rajhi, whilst overall leader Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz’s petrol-electric Audi ran in fifth place early on.
SA crew, Baragwanath and steady Stéphane Peterhansel’s Audi followed. Monday’s frontrunners, winner Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers’ Hiluxes, Mattias Ekstrom’s Audi, and third overnight, Mathieu Serradori‘s Century however all struggled as they opened the road. Sebastien Loeb‘s Hunter and overall leader Sainz bort lost time when both stopped to remedy car problems.
Lategan was on a mission up front as he chased leader Chicherit’s, with Terranova, Al Rajhi and Peterhansel and Baragwanath in their wake at mid distance. There were a few minor place changes, but nothing major through the afternoon. Then organisers called the race off at 377 km, when a thunderstorm prevented safety helicopters from flying.
So, Prodrive hit back from its blue Monday as Chicherit took Tuesday’s win by three minutes from South African Gazoo Toyota hero Lategan and Terranova in a Hunter 1-3. The duelling Peterhansel, Al Rajhi and Baragwanath followed, while Al Attiyah fought back to a provisional tenth to move into the overall lead, with Serradori 14th.
Overall, Al Attiyah leads Al Rajhi by 13 minutes in a Toyota 1-2 with the ever consistent Peterhansel now looming large in third. Fourth placed Stefan Vitse and Fabien Lefebvre’s MD buggy leads the rear drive class, with Century pair Baragwanath and Seradori hot on his heels. De Villiers sits seventh from Sainz, with Lategan eleventh.
SANDERS DOMINATES THE BIKES
Aussie Daniel Sanders’ GasGas led the bikes from the get-go from US duo, Ricky Brabec’s Honda, and Skyler Howes on a Husqvarna. South African Michael Docherty topped the R2 amateur class on his Husqvarna, as Botswana’s Ross Branch dropped down the order on his Hero. Docherty however lost time as Brach slowly fought back.
Sanders controlled the pace from ninth on the road until Brabec crashed out of second around mid-distance. That left Sanders to win by five minutes from Kevin Benavides’ KTM and Howes. In so doing, Sanders swept into a four-minute overall bike lead over Monday leader and fourth on the day, Mason Klein’s BAS KTM, Benavides, and Howes.
Ross Branch came home 14th, while South African Docherty struggled to 39th, but retaind his overall rookie lead. His FK Husqvarna teammate and Malle Moto Original class rider Charan Moore had a good day to end 40th to stay second overall in Original. Malle Moto compatriots, Stuart Gregory and iron lady Kirsten Landman were still in the stage in 80th and 102nd as we wrote, while Stevan Wilken sat 104th.
The other classes were also still running as we closed for press. Alexandre Giroud led Moreno Flores and Juraj Varga in the quads. Poles Marek Goczal’s Can Am took Monday’s T4 side by side win from Argentine Jeremias Gonzalez’s Can Am and Brazilian Rodrigo De Oliveira, who led compatriot Batista and Goczal as we wrote on Tuesday.
US lad Mitch Guthrie overcame early T3 Prototype leader, Chilean Francisco Lopez, and teammate Seth Quintero to take a maiden win in Monday’s stage. South African rookies Eben Basson and Abertus Pienaar ended 16th and Geoff Minnitt and Gerhard Snyman 18th. Austin Jones led Quinterio on Tuesday, while Minnit sat 18th and Basson 23rd.
Czech team Ales Loprais’ Praga took Monday’s truck win from Dutch Iveco crews, Joanus van Kasteren and Martin van den Brink. Martin Macik’s Iveco however led Jaroslav Valtr’s Tatra at the time of writing on Tuesday.
Dakar is not getting any easier, either. Wednesday sees another bruising 425 km in a loop around Ha’il, starting with dunes described as ‘sheer mountains of sand’ before what organisers promise to be some ‘tricky navigation’ later in the day. .