Qatar’s Al-Attiyah takes Dakar lead as Sainz hits trouble

Toyota’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah took the lead in the Dakar Rally on Tuesday (Jan 3) after Audi’s Carlos Sainz hit trouble on a shortened stage three in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Spaniard Sainz had led the Qatari by two minutes and 12 seconds overnight but lost 45 minutes on repairs to the rear left suspension of his electric hybrid car during the run from AlUla to Ha’il.

The 60-year-old triple Dakar champion then lost more time with navigational problems and dropped out of the top 10.

French driver Guerlain Chicherit won the stage for GCK Motorsport, ahead of Argentina’s Orlando Terranova for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team and Overdrive Racing’s Saudi contender Yazeed Al Rajhi.

Al-Attiyah leads Al Rajhi by 13 minutes and 19 seconds overall with 11 stages still to come before the rally ends in Dammam on Jan 15.

The racing was cut short for safety reasons before the final checkpoint due to rainstorms preventing medical helicopters from flying, with competitors completing the journey to Ha’il by road.

In the motorcycle category, 2020 champion Ricky Brabec – the first American to win the endurance event – retired after crashing and being taken to hospital for tests after suffering neck pain.

“The Honda rider has suffered a fall after 274 km of the special and is now in the hands of the Dakar medical team,” said organisers.

He was the second former motorcycle Dakar winner to retire from this year’s event after Britain’s reigning champion Sam Sunderland on Sunday.

Australian GasGas rider Daniel Sanders won the stage to lead overall by four minutes and four seconds from American KTM rider Mason Klein.

“We struggled a bit at the start. It was really hard through the deep sand and rock,” said Sanders.

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