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Dakar Rally 2020: Sainz wins stage 7, extends lead over Al Attiyah

Carlos Sainz

Bengaluru, January 13: Two-time champion Carlos Sainz of Spain tightened his grip on the Dakar Rally 2020 by winning stage 7, his third stage win of this year's edition which was overshadowed by the death of Portuguese bike rider Paulo Goncalves.

Sainz in a Mini completed the longest special between Riyadh and Wadi Al Dawasir over two minutes clear of Qatar's defending champion and Toyota rival Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah with his fellow Mini driver Stephane Peterhansel in third.

With seven stages completed and five day's racing to go, Sainz enjoys a comfortable 10 minute cushion over last year's winner Al Attiyah, with 13-time Dakar champion Peterhansel a further nine minutes adrift.

But the day was marred by Goncalves's demise. He was killed after a crash at the 276 kms mark.

Dakar Rally tragedy as Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves dies

Meanwhile, Spain's two-time Formula 1 one world champion Fernando Alonso and his compatriot co-driver Marc Coma were only five-and-a-half minutes slower than team-mates Al Attiyah over this first dune-covered stage to take sixth place at the end.

Peterhansel wins stage 6, Sainz leads overall, Al Attiyah second

Monday's (January 13) stage 8 takes the competitors on a 474 kms loop stage around the Wadi Al Dawasir bivouac. The 2020 Dakar finishes on Friday (January 17) in Al Qiddiya.

Sainz in cruise mode

Sainz in cruise mode

Sainz, a two-time former world rally champion, is in a strong position to add to his Dakar wins in 2010 and 2018. The 57-year-old now has three stage wins in Saudi Arabia and is one of only three drivers in Dakar history to have won stages on three different continents.

"We were flat out for a lot of time crossing the dunes. I caught up with Stephane (Peterhansel) at one part but it was very dusty so I decided to stay behind," said Sainz.

Not easy for Al Attiyah

Not easy for Al Attiyah

Second placed Al Attiyah and his french navigator Matthieu Baumel are now exactly 10 minutes behind Sainz in the overall standings.

"It wasn't easy, the stage was very dangerous. We were always in sixth gear at very, very high speed," the three-time champion said.

Peterhansel catching up

Peterhansel catching up

Sainz's fellow Mini Buggy driver Peterhansel is a further nine minutes back at third in the general classification.

"Today it was really fast, faster than the last stage before the rest day. It was 550 kms in around four hours," said the 13-time champion across all classes.

Goncalves's death

Goncalves's death

However, all racing at the Dakar was overshadowed on stage 7 by the tragic news that bike competitor Goncalves passed away from a fall sustained 276 kms into the special stage. The 40-year-old was taking part in his 13th Dakar bike race.

As a mark of respect to such a beloved figure in the Dakar bivouac, stage 8 of motorbike and quad sections have been cancelled. The entire Dakar caravan extended their sincere condolences to his friends and family.

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Story first published: Monday, January 13, 2020, 11:15 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 13, 2020