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Serradori steals the show

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Standalone South African race car maker Century scored an upset at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia when Frenchman Mattieu Serradori stormed to a convincing maiden stage win.

Mathieu Serradori of France (SRT Racing) in action during stage eight of the Rally Dakar 2020 in Wadi Al-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia yesterday. Picture: EPA-EFE | Andre Pain

Standalone South African race car maker Century scored an upset at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia when Frenchman Mattieu Serradori stormed to a convincing maiden stage win for the team over double world Formula One champion Fernando Alonso and the might of Toyota and BMW-Mini aboard the special vehicle class buggy.

The Corvette-powered Century machine is entirely conceived, developed and built by former Dakar racer and SA Cross Country champion Mark Corbett in Johannesburg.

Serradori topped an unusual podium over Alonso in the quickest of the Gazoo Toyota South Africa Hiluxes, Argentine Orlando Terranova in an all-wheel drive Mini and SA star Giniel de Villiers in another Gazoo SA Hilux as the overall leaders struggled to find the road without motorcycle tracks to follow on a day that saw the bike and quad races cancelled in memory of Dakar legend Paulo Goncalves, who tragically passed away after a fall on Sunday.

Overall leader Carlos Sainz driving a buggy-based rear-wheel drive Mini lost significant time early on, although he clawed back some of the deficit to now lead Nasser Al Attiyah’s Gazoo SA Hilux and Stephane Peterhansel in another Mini buggy by the significantly reduced margins of six minutes 40 seconds and 13 minutes nine seconds in the general standings.

Serradori soon overcame his low 14th starting position after losing time stuck in the sand on Sunday to move ahead of local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi (Hilux) midway through the day’s race, while Sainz, Al Attiyah and Peterhansel languished in 27th, 16th and eighth respectively. Behind Serradori and Al Rajhi, another Saudi, Yasir Seaidan and Terranova’s Minis and De Villiers, Dutch driver Bernhard Ten Brinke and Alonso’s trio of Gazoo SA Hiluxes traded places through the morning.

Dakar rookie Alonso however put in a significant trot to leapfrog the lot and come home second behind the ecstatic Serradori, with Terranova third from De Villiers, Al Rajhi, Pole Jakub Przygonski (Mini AWD), Ten Brinke and countryman Eric van Loon in another Hilux and Peterhansel. Spain’s Nani Roma (Borgward) closed off the provisional top 10 ahead of Al Attiyah with Sainz likely to end up around 20th for the day, while Sedian lost time stuck in the sand to drop down the order.

The South African built and run Red-Lined Nissan Navaras were running well with SA TreasuryOne adventurers Hennie de Klerk and Johann Smalberger 25th and Dubai-based British duo Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren 36th.

Chilean Fernando Lopez Contardo was leading the side-by-side class, where Zimbabwe’s Conrad Rautenbach sat eighth after SA-born Swiss Mike Horn navigating for Cyril Despres withdrew on Sunday, and Andrey Karginov, Dimitri Sotnikov and Anton Shibalov were in a Kamaz-1-2-3 in the trucks.

Dakar moves 410km on towards Haradh today.

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