Carlos Sainz is one day away from demonstrating, once again, that age is a state of mind. At 57, the pilot who opened news for the first time in history is about to get his third touareg trophy as a Dakar rally winner. In addition, the Madrid will have won the Dakar on three different continents. The penultimate stage, second part of the marathon, left the perfect opportunity to bring out the strategic capacity of Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, his inseparable squire and at least as responsible as the pilot of the good Dakar they are setting.
With 18 minutes of margin, being clear where and how to squeeze was key, since they knew that their pursuers are possibly the two most fit drivers to dispute their victory. Sainz opened track, but soon backed away. When a team is winning 2-0, it is not thrown up: fold back, contemplate and try not to get caught. For two football fans like the Spanish team in the X-Raid Mini, using this tactic was the most logical thing.
Thus, on the way back to Haradh, they decided that it was others who attacked. A failure, a breakdown or a poorly taken path could separate them from the glory and in these lides, Sainz and Cruz are already veterans. The nerves under the dunes or a bad jump could cost them dearly, so they didn’t even squeeze in the first kilometers. It was Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah, forced by the circumstances, who faced the stage with the knife between their teeth, trying to scare a Sainz desperate who at his age is not afraid of anything that has four wheels.
The problem is that the attack was late. Both Al-Attiyah and Peterhansel were resigned already in the first part of the marathon that this Thursday, unless unexpectedly Sainz, little or nothing could do. The eightieth stage victory of the legendary French rider, for only 10 seconds over the Qatari, was insufficient for his options, since they still have a few kilometers to try.
The organization didn’t make it easy either. The 374 kilometers specially planned were shortened to only 166 finals, so the 10-minute margin faced by Sainz on the last day seems more than enough. In addition, Al-Attiyah already resigned himself that this year he will not be able to repeat the success of the past. “Now, let’s fight with Stéphane (Peterhansel) to keep second place. It’s very good. We will see what the last day holds for us, ”commented the Toyota leader.
His teammate Fernando Alonso finished his first dakarian marathon in a good eighth place. After the spectacular accident of the previous day, and despite leaving the 113th, soon the former Formula 1 driver took out all the claw inside. He finished the day just 17 minutes from Peterhansel, which allows him to maintain the 13th place in the general. The goal of the ‘top 10’ is practically impossible, but you can feel satisfied: soon after you have a quiet day, this Friday will be the first Dakar of your life.
If you have almost done it in Sainz cars, much more Ricky Brabec on motorcycles. The American is 166 kilometers from making history for his country and, above all, for off-road motorcycling: he will end 17 Dakares of uninterrupted reign of KTM. San Bernardino did not even squeeze, and confessed to having shot in the penultimate stage handling the times and 70% to avoid falling or having a last minute scare.
The Chilean Pablo Quintanilla won the stage, but it was not enough to snatch the immense mattress that Brabec had, which will happen in the record to Toby Price. The Australian and Matthias Walkner, winner of the raid in 2018, surpassed Joan Barreda in general, which opened track tore him apart. ‘Bang-Bang’ has fallen to the fifth place of the general after losing almost 15 minutes. He will have a hard time getting on the podium on the last day of the toughest raid in the world, and he must wait another year for his constant candidacy on both wheels to be confirmed.
Alonso: «Every day I learn something new»
Fernando Alonso is one day away from completing his first Dakar, something that began as a fun challenge and has become a full-fledged competition. After overcoming his first marathon stage, which the Spaniard described as “entertaining”, he admitted that what happened in the first kilometer of Wednesday marked the future of the rest. «The starting position dictated a lot how the stage was going to go, we were leaving 113. We had the dunes with the sand very loose from the trucks, and yet we finished eighth. Super happy to be here and only one is left to finish this Dakar, ”Alonso smiled, while the mechanics checked his car, less battered than he seemed at first after the blow of the previous day.
«Yesterday (on Wednesday) we dumped in the dunes, but it was nothing serious. We were able to continue with the car intact. Today we have not had any mishaps, so we can say that the marathon stage has been good despite the time lost yesterday, something that can happen to anyone. Today’s stage has been beautiful with so much sand, but leaving from so far back has been complicated. I am satisfied. I think that every day I learn something new in my first Dakar, ”he summed up, before going to the caravan to rest to gain strength for the last arreón.