Autosport (UK)

Sainz leads Loeb amid the drama


Carlos Sainz Sr held a comfortabl­e 20m33s advantage in the Dakar Rally as Autosport went to press on Tuesday after the ninth stage, but with a charging Sebastien Loeb in hot pursuit of the Audi driver.

Sainz moved back into the lead when Yazeed Al-rajhi rolled his Overdrive Toyota Hilux at the start of the 48-hour stage six, bringing a premature end to the Saudi driver’s 10th appearance in the event. The Spaniard has since stayed at the front through a series of consistent performanc­es in his electric-powered

Audi RS Q e-tron, despite not adding a single stage win to his tally. Instead, Sainz has finished inside the top five every single day, and was able to maintain the 20-minute lead he inherited from Al-rajhi by balancing outright speed with precision driving.

Loeb emerged as Sainz’s closest rival in what is now a two-horse race, with the nine-time World Rally champion showing some breathtaki­ng pace to close down on the Audi driver. Loeb deliberate­ly missed a waypoint on stage five to give his Prodrive Hunter a better starting position for the 48-hour test in Empty Quarter, where he took a triumphant victory to signal his comeback. Another win on stage seven reduced the deficit to Sainz to under 20 minutes, and he looked set to make further inroads until navigation­al errors cost him dearly in the final 100km the following day.

The Frenchman managed to make up for that mistake with his fourth stage victory on Tuesday, keeping the fight for victory open in the final part of the rally.

Sainz and Loeb have been left to duel since all other contenders dropped off one after the other. After Al-rajhi’s exit, drama struck Nasser Al-attiyah the following day when his Prodrive Hunter took significan­t damage in a hard landing from a dune. He later had to withdraw from stage eight with an engine issue, before exiting the ninth test due to technical problems.

Mattias Ekstrom was next to fall out of contention, with his factory Audi breaking down twice on stage seven. The two-time DTM champion lost more than four hours because of the double blow, losing any hope of a top 10 finish. He had previously been running second behind Sainz, and fractional­ly ahead of Loeb.

All of that means it’s Lucas Moraes in third place overall in his factory Toyota, an hour down on Sainz after a strong second-place finish on stage seven. Moraes’s team-mate Giniel de Villiers holds fifth behind the customer Hilux of Guillaume de Villiers, with Mathieu Serradori sixth in his Century 4x2.

 ?? ?? Ferrari F1 star’s dad still showing them how it should be done
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