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Sainz extends his Dakar lead, while Sunderland crashes out

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Spaniard Carlos Sainz extended his Dakar Rally lead with a second stage win in five days.

Spanish Carlos Sainz (Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team) and his co-pilot Lucas Cruz in action during stage five of the Rally Dakar 2020 between Al Ula and Al Hai in Saudi Arabia. Picture: EPA-EFE/ANDRE PAIN

Spaniard Carlos Sainz extended his Dakar Rally lead with a second stage win in five days yesterday while Britain’s Sam Sunderland, motorcycle champion in 2017, crashed out in the Saudi desert.

Sainz, a two-times Dakar winner, finished almost three minutes ahead of closest rival and defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah to forge five minutes and 59 seconds clear of the Qatari.

French driver Stephane Peterhansel, a record 13-times Dakar winner on two wheels and four, was third overall but nearly 18 minutes behind Mini teammate Sainz.

“We gained three minutes, it was not easy, we had to push really hard at the end,” said Sainz, who also won the third stage in his buggy on Tuesday.

“I’m happy, the car is working fine. We got a puncture at the beginning but we managed to come back.”

Al-Attiyah said the route from Al Ula to Ha’il had been better for buggies than his Toyota Hilux pickup but “we did what was necessary to avoid any problems.

“We had a flat tyre five kilometres before the finish, but we preferred to carry on without changing the wheel. It was more camel grass than real dunes. I think we will see real dunes next week,” he added.

In the motorcycle category, Australia’s defending champion, Toby Price, won the day’s 564km stage after KTM teammate Sunderland retired. Organisers said the Dubai-based 30-year-old had hurt his back and left shoulder in a fall at the 187km mark but was quickly attended to and had not lost consciousness.

Sunderland had led the rally, being held in the Middle East for the first time after a decade in South America, after the second stage and was fastest on Wednesday before incurring a five-minute penalty for speeding in a neutralised section.

Price became this year’s first double-stage winner but American Ricky Brabec, on a Honda, extended his overall lead to nine minutes over the Australian.

“It’s been a good day. We pushed hard at the start, made some good ways and then I caught up with the Honda boys. Ricky and them were in front, but it’s been a good stage,” said Price.

“It’s actually the first time I’ve ridden with a whole big group, so it was quite enjoyable but at the end of the day they are competitive, so we need to stay in front of them. We’re happy with the day and we’ll see how day six goes now.”

The rally finishes in Qiddiya on January 17.

Reuters

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