|SA-Dakar: Sainz still in the lead, Peterhansel trapped between the Touaregs.|
Carlos Sainz today celebrated his 20th special stage victory on the event, but it is merely another episode in his confrontation with Al-Attiyah and Peterhansel. For the moment, the battle for the title mainly concerns the Race Touareg of Nasser Al-Attiyah (yesterday´s winner) and Sainz, with the promise of seeing Stephane Peterhansel display his skills in sand as soon as the long stretches of dunes appear.
The Frenchman even seemed to be getting a head-start, since the X-raid driver passed through the 81 km point with the best time: 15 better than Sainz.
In the second part, the leader of the X-Raid team did not really make any mistakes, but a puncture held him up by 2 to 3 minutes, surely robbing him of the best time at the finishing line.
In the general standings, the trio of Sainz, Al Attiyah and Peterhansel are within a range of 5:40, whilst the VW of De Villiers is eying from a distance any places to be snatched on the podium - the South African is 4th, 19:14 behind.
This is the place that Robby Gordon accomplished in 2009, but he will not be able to do so this year. Halted by a major mechanical problem after crossing the Paso de Jama pass, the Hummer was not able to start the day´s special. This is the first time since the 2006 edition that the American has been forced to withdraw.
With more than an hour to be made up on Sainz, Mark Miller also has little hope of being concerned by the title, though he did put himself into 5th position today, with a lead of more than two minutes over Terranova and Chicherit. The Mini Countryman driver, sickened by his overheating problems on the first day, seems to be regaining some sort of stability.
Though the Argentineans continue to dominate the quad category, the distribution of roles is changing. Marcos Patronelli has finally withdrawn from this third Dakar before leaving his country.
He leaves his older brother to battle to try and succeed him in the race´s roll of honour. However, today it was a newcomer to the rally, Tomas Maffei, already winner of his first stage yesterday, who took the lead in the general standings. He sits atop a 100% Argentinean podium with a lead of 1:54 over Patronelli and 3:11 over Halpern.
2011/01/05 | 22:11 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/ASO