Sainz consolidates lead in Dakar Rally

Monday, January 3, 2011

SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN - Titleholder Carlos Sainz consolidated his Dakar Rally lead Monday with a second stage win in the northeastern Argentine city of San Miguel de Tucuman.

The Spaniard Sainz, 47, racing with a Volkswagen Touareg, had already won the first stage Sunday.

On Monday, Sainz stretched his overall lead over Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel - record holder in the prestigious offroad race with six titles on a motorcycle and three in a car - by 3.05 minutes.

“It was a difficult stage to tackle again and I had windscreen wiper problems again they wouldn’t work properly,” Sainz said, in comments posted on the Dakar Rally website.

“For a dozen kilometres, I couldn’t see a thing and I had to drive very slowly. I’m very disappointed. I’ve probably lost a lot of time. I don’t understand why we still have this problem, because the mechanics checked everything Sunday. Overall, though, this stage suited me rather well.”

Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah, second-placed Monday ahead of Peterhansel, was also upset.

“We lost a lot of power on the last 100 km. I don’t know what’s wrong, it was probably something to do with the water. We really need to fix it because I’m disappointed that we lost a lot of time,” Al-Attiyah said.

In the motorcycle section, last year’s winner Cyril Despres, with KTM, won the stage to climb to the top of the overall table. The Frenchman, who also won the offroad race in 2005 and 2007, described the ride as “a 300-km giant slalom with jumps, like skiing.”

Despres accumulated a 2.35 minute-lead over Spain’s Marc Coma, who won the Dakar Rally in 2006 and 2009.

Portugal’s Ruben Faria, who had surprised Despres and Coma to win the first stage, lost ground Monday. He is now third overall, 6.13 minutes behind Despres.

Participants covered 740 km - 300 of them in a timed special - between Cordoba and San Miguel de Tucuman Monday.

The rally began Saturday with a so-called liaison stage starting in Buenos Aires. The race is taking place in Argentina and Chile for the third consecutive year, after security problems drove it out of its original location in Africa.

The Dakar Rally, with more than 9,500 km including 5,000 km of specials, is to end Jan 15 also in the Argentine capital, where winners are to be celebrated a day later.

This edition, like its predecessors, will feature key stages in northern Chile’s challenging Atacama Desert.

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