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Sainz and Brabec on top as Dakar day three takes toll on SA crews

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Monday’s car winner Giniel de Villiers struggled and bike winner Ross Branch was slowed after a crash.

Rallying - Dakar Rally - Stage 3 - Neom, Saudi Arabia - January 7, 2020 Bahrain JCW X-Raid Teams Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during stage 3 REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Dakar 2020 bit hard on the third day’s 427km loop around the future megacity of Neom as the race claimed several victims with top competitors exiting a race that continues to evolve seesaw-like through the Saudi Arabian Desert.

It was however a good day for Carlos Sainz and Ricky Brabec, Mini and Honda, but not so good for most Southern African crews as Monday’s car winner Giniel de Villiers struggled and bike winner Ross Branch was slowed after a crash, although Zimbabwean Conrad Rautenbach delivered his second Side by Side podium in two days

Second for the second day in a row, former SA rally champion Rautenbach proved the best of the Southern Africans yesterday as he once again paced his PH Sport buggy to rise through the pack to split US dream team duo Casey Currie and Austin Jones’s Can Ams at the top of the fledgling Dakar Side-by Side buggy class leaderboard.

The car race proved a three-way dice between the Minis of Spanish double world rally champion Carlos Sainz, 13-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel and 2019 winner Nasser Al Attiyah in his SA-built Toyota Hilux, with double world F1 champion teammate, Dakar rookie Fernando Alonso holding a watching brief in fourth.

Behind them, Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi held off the Minis of countryman Yazeed Seaidan and Pole Jakub Przygonski’s Mini, but Peterhansel had issues to leave Sainz to take the day from Attiyah, Przygomski, Seaidan, a happy Alonso and Al Rajhi.

From a South African car point of view, Monday’s winner Giniel de Villiers came in ninth ahead of SA Hilux teammate Bernhard Ten Brinke and Frenchman Mattieu Serradori in his SA-built Corvette-powered Century buggy.

Decent runs

The two SA-built Red-Lined Nissan Navaras were enjoying decent runs yesterday, with TreasuryOne duo Hennie de Klerk and Johann Smalberger running 31st and Thomas Bell 46th.

Overall, Sainz now provisionally leads Al Attiyah, Terranova, Al Rajhi, Peterhansel, Serradori and de Villiers, with de Klerk 33rd and Bell 50th.

In the bike race, it was a dream come true for Honda as the imperious Californian Ricky Brabec took control early on to lead all the way and win from teammates, Chile’s Jose Ignacio Conrejo Flormino and Spaniard Joan Barreda ahead of Argentine brothers Luciano (KTM) and Kevin Benavides (Honda), after French Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) and Aussie Toby Price (KTM) lost their way later on to end up 9th and 11th.

Overall, Brabec moved into the bike race lead ahead of Florimo, Barreda and Kevin Benavides in a Honda 1-2-3-4 ahead of KTM duo Matthias Walkner and Luciano Benavides.