RIYADH: Sebastien Loeb won his second stage of the week in the Dakar Rally after Carlos Sainz was penalized for speeding on Sunday.
Nasser Al-Attiyah was bumped up to second after the 346-kilometer special in Saudi Arabia between Al-Duwadimi east to the capital Riyadh, and retained overall control with an hour-plus lead.
Mason Klein was demoted from the motorbikes lead after his own penalty for speeding. Fellow American Skyler Howes regained the lead, and Klein was tied for second with Kevin Benavides, just over a minute behind.
Three-time champion Sainz fell out of title running when he crashed on Friday and abandoned the stage. A 29-hour penalty was added to by a three-hour delay on Saturday when he stopped to give Marias Ekstrom his suspension.
He didn’t have to stop on Sunday, timing first from the second checkpoint on and beating Loeb by 1 1/2 minutes. But Sainz was caught doing more than 40 kph in a 30 kph zone and penalized five minutes. Loeb was given the stage win, the 18th of his career, Al-Attiyah was promoted to second, and Sainz relegated to third.
“Finally, we got to enjoy ourselves a little bit and get a clear run,” Sainz said. “Starting so far behind, we had no dust, thanks to the rain.”
In regard to falling out of title contention, he said, “I liked it much better before in the Dakar. When a priority driver got a problem, you were immediately put in the top 15. It’s not good for us, not good for the others. I’m very disappointed at all the problems we got. The whole team was not very lucky. We’ve been unlucky, but we’ll keep attacking and enjoying the race.”
Defending champion Al-Attiyah will go into the rest day leading by 63 minutes over Toyota teammate Henk Lategan. Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes was an impressive third, 80 minutes back. Loeb was fourth, still trailing by nearly two hours.
“All our hard work at the beginning of the race is paying off,” Al-Attiyah said.
There were only seconds between Klein and Ross Branch all day until the fast valleys near the end when the Botswana rider on a Hero pulled away from Klein by a minute.
Then Klein was penalized for speeding on a road section and dropped to third, 18 seconds behind Daniel Sanders.
The penalty also cost Klein the overall lead.
Howes, 17th on the stage, was awarded the lead for a fourth straight day, but only 73 seconds ahead of Klein and Benavides, the 2021 champion.
Two-time champion Toby Price, two-time runner-up Pablo Quintanilla and Adrien van Beveren, fourth last year, were all within four minutes of Howes.