Carlos Sainz takes on water during the shortened 3rd stage

Carlos Sainz takes on water during the shortened 3rd stage

After the shower of punctures the day before, a deluge cut short the drivers on Tuesday during the 3rd stage of the Dakar between Al-Ula and Hail which cost the Spaniard Carlos Sainz the first place of the provisional general in the car category.

The organizers announced at the beginning of the afternoon that they had stopped the stage, the heavy rains not allowing the safety of the rescuers or that of the competitors in the riverbeds.

The stage was neutralized at km 378 of the special, which was to have 447 of them, and the competitors were rerouted to return directly to the camp transformed into a mud field and where the canteen will act as a giant dormitory for the night.

The Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit (Prodrive) however managed to take his revenge after the setbacks of the day before and his five punctures which showered his “great ambitions” and therefore “this victory is good”, he said.

“The team was in a bit of a bad mood last night (…. ) With Seb (Loeb, editor’s note), we said to ourselves that we had to go for each remaining stage, in order to score points in the championship. of the World (W2RC). And after that, why not get back into the top 10, or even the top 5”, added the winner of the last Morocco rally.

Leader of the general classification at the start, the Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Audi) is however the big loser of the day: forced to stop at km 213 due to a problem with the left wheel, he finished the stage with a delay of 56 minutes.

“There are a lot of days left, you have to keep pushing and try to come back up if you can. If you start changing your strategy and attacking more, you also take the risk that more things will happen to you, but we going to try, we’re not going to give up,” said Sainz in front of Audi’s covered pits while around the bivouac many ditches had been dug to evacuate the water and small stables were repairing year after year in the mud.

As a result, the Qatari and defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah succeeds him at the top of the still provisional general classification.

Behind Chicherit, South African Henk Lattegan took second place with his Toyota, at 3 min 26 sec, and Argentinian Orlando Terranova third, at 5 min 4 sec, according to provisional results.

In the provisional general classification, Al-Attiyah is now ahead of the Saudi Yazeed Al-Rajhi, 2nd at 13 min 20 sec, and the Frenchman St├ęphane Peterhansel, 3rd at 20 min 45 sec.

S├ębastien Loeb (Prodrive), 2nd in 2022, suffered further damage after the triple puncture the day before, and lost more than 35 additional minutes, which put him in 26th place overall.

– Brabec hospitalized but “doing well” –

The bikers also had to return prematurely to the camp transformed into mud pools, and covered themselves with plastic bags to protect themselves from the cold.

Before the suspension of the race, the Australian Daniel Sanders (GasGas) won the third stage, also marked by the abandonment of the American Ricky Brabec, winner in 2020 and victim of a fall at kilometer 274 of the event that required his hospitalization.

The latter is doing well and has no fractures or serious injuries but he remains under observation for 24 hours as a precaution in the hospital, indicates the Honda team.

Sanders, when he had knowingly braked on Monday not to win and not have to open the track on Tuesday, this time crossed the finish line first, according to provisional results.

He was 6 min 19 sec ahead of American Skyler Howes (Husqvarna), who finished third on Monday and played the track opening bonus game on Tuesday. Third place went to the American Mason Klein (KTM), rewarded with almost six minutes of bonuses, 6 min 59 sec from Sanders.

In the provisional general classification, Sanders is the leader ahead of Klein, 2nd at 4 min 4 sec, and Benavides, 3rd at 4 min 38 sec.

This year, bonuses are granted to motorcyclists who open the road and “make the mark”.