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.
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.
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
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.