DAKAR RALLY

Gremlins plague Sainz

Spanish driver falls off Dakar ranking due to electrical issues

Qatar Red Bull driver Carlos Sainz during Monday's stage. / JACKY NAEGELEN (REUTERS)

Somewhat given to grandiose statements, the Qatar Red Bull driver Nasser Al-Attiyah said after Sunday's Dakar stage, the second, that he wasn't worried about not having won, because he knew his day would come. Well, he didn't have to wait long, as on Monday he crossed the line first, in the third stage of the epic rally, which takes its competitors through some of the roughest terrain Peru, Argentina and Chile have to offer.

The luck of his teammate, Spaniard Carlos Sainz, went the other way. The 2010 Dakar winner has lost, won, and then lost the second stage of the race - all in the space of two days. He was classified 11th after the stage, only for the organizers to award him 21 minutes of extra time on Sunday night due to an apparent problem with his GPS system. But astonishingly, they then reversed that decision on Monday after an appeal by another team, who argued that his back-up GPS system was working, leaving him right back where he started - or finished, depending on how you look at it.

We were trying to sort out the cables, but it failed again and again"

Aside from the back and forth of the organizer's decisions, Sainz did not fare well in Monday's stage, which took the competing cars, bikes, quads and trucks from Pisco to Nazca. Electrical problems plagued his Qatar Red Bull buggy, which saw him lose 20 minutes. By Monday night he was 10th overall in the standings, with last year's winner, Stéphane Peterhansel, leading for the X-raid team.

"The car was stopping right from the first kilometer," explained Sainz. "It stopped five, six, seven or even eight times! We started it and shortly after it stopped again. We were trying to sort out the cables, but it failed again and again." Sainz crossed the line 14th on Monday, a full 30 minutes behind his teammate.

On Tuesday things went from bad to worse for Sainz, on the stage that took him from Nazca to Arequipa.

At the end of Tuesday's stage, Stéphane Peterhansel was still leading in the car category, with a short lead over Nasser Al-Attiyah. At press time, Sainz was yet to cross the line, given the repeated electronic problems he had suffered.

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