Sainz’s Dakar Rally lead down to 24 seconds over Al-Attiyah

Driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, of Qatar, and co-driver Matthieu Baumel, of France, race their Toyota during stage nine of the Dakar Rally between Wadi Al Dawasir and Haradth, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
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Carlos Sainz’s lead of the Dakar Rally was slashed for a second straight day and reduced to 24 seconds on Tuesday with three stages to go.

Sainz was powering over the 410-kilometer stony route from Wadi Al-Dawasir northeast to Haradh with title rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel when he made a navigation error and was left behind.

The Spaniard conceded five minutes at the time then lost tread on a tire and eventually finished 6 1/2 minutes behind Peterhansel, who earned a rally-leading third stage win.

Sainz, 10 minutes up on Al-Attiyah on Sunday, was just 24 seconds up on the defending champion from Qatar. But Al-Attiyah was wary that there was still lots of room for error on Wednesday on the longest stage, 534 kilometers.

“Tomorrow and after tomorrow will be very, very difficult for everybody,” Al-Attiyah said. “It’s good tomorrow that Stéphane is opening (the way) on marathon day.”

Peterhansel, third overall, was 6 1/2 minutes back. The teammate of Sainz was chasing his 14th Dakar victory, and eighth in cars.

“We made no mistakes at all with the navigation,” Peterhansel said. “We only lost 10 or 15 minutes, but that’s nothing. We’ll try to keep the pressure on the leader.”

After the eighth motorbike stage was cancelled on Monday so riders could mourn the death of racer Paulo Goncalves, Ricky Brabec resumed as the leader and was still well in front after the ninth stage.

Pablo Quintanilla won his first stage of this Dakar, two minutes ahead of defending champion Toby Price. Joan Barreda was third, and Brabec limited the damage to his overall lead by finishing fourth and only four minutes behind Quintanilla.

The American still led second-placed Quintanilla of Chile by 21 minutes overall, while Price was 27 minutes back in third.