Sainz, chasing his third Dakar win, picked up where he had left off in the first half of the marathon, as delivered Mini’s sixth stage win from seven in this year’s Dakar so far.
Sunday’s Riyadh – Wadi ad-Dawasir run featured the event’s longest timed special at 546 kilometres, yet did not cause any major swings in the battle for overall victory.
The Toyotas of reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and local driver Yasir Seaidan were setting the pace through the first half of the test, but Sainz jumped ahead soon after the midway point and ended up beating Al-Attiyah by two minutes at the finish.
Sainz’s advantage over Al-Attiyah in the overall standings is now exactly 10 minutes.
The other X-raid Mini buggy of Stephane Peterhansel opened the road and though Sainz caught up to him in the stage, Peterhansel was able to minimise his time losses by finishing just 2m53s slower, which leaves him nine minutes off Al-Attiyah and 19 off Sainz with five stages left to run.
Sunday marked the fourth successive stage that the two Mini buggies and Al-Attiyah occupied the top three spots, but the Qatari’s Toyota squadmate Bernhard ten Brinke came close to upsetting the status quo as he trailed Peterhansel by just five seconds.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi in the Overdrive Toyota was seven minutes off Sainz’s pace and continues to run a comfortable fourth in the general classification as he extended his advantage over fifth-placed Orlando Terranova in the Mini 4x4.
Mathieu Serradori, who had entered the day in sixth in his Century buggy, has slipped behind his Toyota chasers – Giniel de Villiers and ten Brinke – as a result of getting stuck on a dune in the opening kilometres of the stage.
Seaidan, who had been fastest early in the stage, wound up 13 minutes adrift at the end of the special.
Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso was sixth on the day, less than eight minutes behind Sainz, and is set to end the day not far off a top-10 spot in the overall order.
The day’s proceedings were overshadowed by the loss of bike class competitor and 2015 Dakar runner-up Paulo Goncalves, who passed away after a crash midway through the test.
General classification (top 10):
|Pos.||#||Driver / Co-driver||Car||Time||Gap|
|3||302|| Stephane Peterhansel |
Giniel de Villiers
Bernhard ten Brinke
Trucks: Karginov marches on
Despite having to open the road on Sunday, Andrey Karginov continued to dominate the Trucks race as he edged his out-of-contention Kamaz stablemate Andrey Sotnikov by three seconds to claim the stage win.
Nearest rival Anton Shibalov, also a Kamaz driver, surrendered two minutes to Karginov and is now 21 adrift overall.
Maz's Siarhei Viazovich has long consolidated third place - as he sits over an hour ahead of Czech drivers Ales Loprais and Martin Macik - but has been unable to keep up with the Kamaz pair, and now trails Karginov by more than three quarters of an hour.
#405 South Racing - Can Am: Casey Currie, Sean Berriman
SxS: Currie picks up half-hour lead
American driver Blade Hildebrand scored the Red Bull-run Overdrive OT3's third consecutive stage win, following on from Mitch Guthrie and Cyril Despres.
Hildebrand was 11 minutes clear of his nearest rival, compatriot Casey Currie, who now leads the overall SxS race after a bruising stage for reigning champion Francisco Lopez.
Lopez lost half an hour late in the stage, and now trails Currie by 32 minutes, with only Sergey Karyakin and Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez also within an hour of the leader.
Guthrie, who was Red Bull's sole representative in contention with Hildebrand and Despres competing under the 'Dakar Experience' rule, retired with mechanical issues.