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Dakar Rally 2020: Serradori wins stage 8, Alonso second, Sainz leads

Fernando Alonso

Bengaluru, January 14: Spain's two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso registered his best result of the Dakar 2020, finishing second on stage 8 which was won by Frenchman Mathieu Serradori even as Carlos Sainz continues to lead the rally.

Serradori finished 4min 4sec ahead of Toyota's Alonso, with Argentine Mini driver Orlando Terranova in third, at 6:19.

Defending champion Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah Al Attiyah finished 11th, but the Qatari managed to close in on Sainz's lead who ended up 15th.

Sainz's overall lead over Al Attiyah is now 6:40 and he is ahead of 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel by 13:09.

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

The stage 8 was shrouded in mourning after the death on Sunday (January 12) of Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves.

Dakar Rally tragedy as Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves dies

The motorbike and quadbike categories were cancelled for the stage, a 477 kms loop incorporating straight sections with several chains of dunes to test handling skills.

Alonso, who had finished four times in the top 10 without having made the podium in a stage, was quick to heap praise on his co-driver Marc Coma, a five-time Dakar champion on a motorbike.

"We had one puncture unfortunately and we lost a little bit of momentum there, but otherwise the stage was nearly perfect and Marc (Coma) was unbelievable," the two-time F1 champion said..

His second place sees him consolidate his 13th place in the overall standings, more than 3hr 10min off the pace set by Sainz.

Tuesday's (January 14) stage 9 sees the cavalcade travel to Saudi Arabia's eastern town of Haradh. A monster distance of 891 kms must be travelled, including a 415-kms special stage.

The 2020 Dakar Rally finishes on Friday (January 17) in Al Qiddiya.

Three-way battle

Three-way battle

The three-way battle continues at the top between the leading trio of two-time winner Sainz, defending champion Al Attiyah and 13-time winner Peterhansel. Sainz had to open the way on the stage and was swiftly caught by Al Attiyah and Peterhansel.

"We were all together on the stage, in a group of five with Nasser (Al Attiyah), Stephane (Peterhansel), Yazeed (Al Rajhi) and Bernhard (Ten Brinke). To be honest we weren't pushing hard. Nasser was opening the road and I didn't want to pass him when we caught up to him," said Sainz, the champion in 2010 and 2018.

Off-road heavyweights

Off-road heavyweights

Al Attiyah, who drives a Toyota, now has four days left to try and leapfrog Sainz while Peterhansel is only 13 minutes off the lead as the big battle between the three off-road heavyweights who already have 18 Dakar wins between them is about reach its business end.

"The last part was very difficult with all the dunes. I was opening all the way and everybody was coming in close. The last 50 kms was a really big fight. We did a good job and I'm quite happy. It wasn't easy without the bikes, really difficult, everything is new without any lines, but we did a good job and Matthieu (Baumel, co-driver) navigated well," said Al Attiyah, who triumphed in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Tricky navigation

Tricky navigation

Sainz's Mini team-mate Peterhansel, who was won the Dakar a record 13 times (seven in cars, six on bikes), hopes to catch up with the leading pack in the remaining four days.

"We drove all together for the last 70 kms. At the beginning it was Carlos (Sainz) opening the road until he got stuck. Then Nasser (Al Attiyah) got stuck in the dunes and after that I opened the road for more than 200 kms. Navigation was so tricky that we all reduced the speed," the Frenchman said.

Dedicated to Goncalves

Dedicated to Goncalves

Surprise stage winner Serradori dedicated his victory to Goncalves.

"I would like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I'm a former biker. It isn't easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there're two fighters in the car and I'm very happy with this result," said Serradori, an amateur who drives an SRT.

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Story first published: Tuesday, January 14, 2020, 10:58 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 14, 2020