At 57, Carlos Sainz is poised to win a third Dakar Rally after playing it safe on the penultimate stage on Thursday.
A day after grabbing a giant 18-minute gap on rivals Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel, Sainz gave back eight minutes on the sandy 379-kilometer route from Shubaytah back to Haradh.
Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah dueled for more than four hours before Peterhansel prevailed by 10 seconds.
Sainz was content to minimize risks on stage 11 and cruise home. He’s set to add to his previous victories in 2010 and 2018, all of them with co-driver Lucas Cruz. They have led since stage three.
“I’ll keep an eye on the gaps and stay focused for tomorrow,” the Spaniard said.
Al-Attiyah, the defending champion 10 minutes behind overall, conceded he was driving for second place, only six seconds ahead of Peterhansel, the 13-time winner and teammate of Sainz.
“We gained some time, but not enough,” Peterhansel said. “Now, if Carlos can bring it home, it’ll be great for the team.”
American biker Ricky Brabec is set to win his first Dakar at his fifth attempt.
Brabec let main rival Pablo Quintanilla speed away, and the Chilean held off Matthias Walkner by nine seconds to win his second stage of this Dakar. Quintanilla slashed Brabec’s overall lead by 12 minutes down to 14, and that should still be plenty for Brabec to win on Friday in Qiddiya.
“I rode defensively today. I went at 70% to avoid pushing man and machine too hard,” Brabec said. “I’m happy to be here, and now I’m mainly thinking of getting over the finish line. Tomorrow could be a great day, I just want to keep this good vibe going.”