Sainz extends his Dakar lead, while Sunderland crashes out
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
THE RESPONSIBILITY of having to guide Kaizer Chiefs back to the pinnacle of South African football doesn’t give coach Ernst Middendorp sleepless nights, but the German mentor conforms to thorough planning on matchday eve.
Following the robust celebratory scenes that erupted at FNB Stadium on Wednesday night as Chiefs celebrated their 50th anniversary – in front of a crowd of 40 000 – many couldn’t help but wonder “what it would be like if Chiefs were to be champions at the end of the season?”.
This follows after Amakhosi went about their business diligently – almost vying to give the millions of faithful around the continent something to further cheer about.
Chiefs are the most successful club in South African football, having amassed 93 domestic trophies – official and unofficial.
On Wednesday, Middendorp and his men added fire to the milestone celebrations, pulling off an impressive 3-0 win over Highlands Park as they extended their lead at the summit of the Premiership to 38 points, six ahead of defending champions Mamelodi Sundowns in second place.
But with 14 matches before
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. the curtain comes down on the domestic season, it is too early to tell whether Chiefs will bag their record 13th league title come May.
However, one thing for sure is that Middendorp is leaving no stone unturned, working tirelessly to ensure that his team keeps improving.
“My sleeping habits are quite normal. But of course, before each and every game, I don’t sleep too much – researching and looking at the possible options in the squad: what we need to do in terms of tactical elements,” he said.
“If this (hunger) is not there anymore as coaches, where we need to have a certain area of being nervous and being grabbed into the environment (then we need to stop coaching). And if I don’t have that anymore, I can promise you, I’ll stop coaching immediately.
“I haven’t (lost it).”
Proving that planning yields the results, Middendorp rewrote the history books in the first half of the season, becoming the first ever coach to win the Absa Premiership Coach of the Month accolade three times in a row, between August and December.
Speaking after each award,
Middendorp credited the work that had been put in by his playing personnel and technical team.
But in the bigger scheme of things, though, many would argue that his subordinates and troops adhered to what he presented on match-day.
Against the Lions of the North, the German mentor created an unorthodox block, starting with four infield midfielders – Willard Katsande and George Maluleka behind Kearyn Baccus and Lebogang Manyama – instead of the diamond that has wingers.
“That’s why your sleeping days get shorter one or two days (before the match), because you try to figure out what needs to be done,” Middendorp said in his post-match analysis on Wednesday night.
“It was important to create something where we feel comfortable with the players that we have available. I think the movement was dragging the opposing players to certain directions, stretching them to here and there – horizontal and vertical.
“We had a clear idea of the way we wanted to do things.”
Middendorp and his men will be hoping to close off what’s been an eventful week with full points when they welcome Cape Town City to FNB Stadium on Sunday (3:30pm).
STILL ON TRACK: Kaizer Chiefs player Siphokazi Ntiya-ntiya battles for the ball with Highlands Park’s Sphiwe Mahlangu during Wednesday evening’s match.
Spanish Carlos Sainz (Bahrain JCW X-raid Team) and his co-pilot Lucas Cruz in action during stage five of the Rally Dakar.