JEDDAH (Reuters) - Spaniard Carlos Sainz won the third stage of the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday with his Audi team celebrating a first for an electric hybrid car.
The Spaniard, a triple Dakar champion, took his 40th career stage win when he finished 38 seconds ahead of Toyota’s South African Henk Lategan over the 255km timed stage around Al Qaisumah.
The Audi RS Q e-tron prototype has three electric motors and a petrol engine to charge the batteries during the longer stages of the two-week endurance event.
Qatar’s Nasser Al Attiyah strengthened his grip on the overall lead after closest challenger Sebastien Loeb suffered two punctures and a transmission problem that left him on two-wheel drive.
The Frenchman, a nine-times world rally champion racing for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, dropped 37 minutes behind his Toyota rival, who was eighth in the stage.
Argentina’s Lucio Alvarez was third overall with South African Giniel De Villiers fourth despite a five-minute penalty for failing to stop after contact with Chilean motorcycle rider Cesar Zumaran on Monday.
Sainz and Audi team mate and defending champion Stephane Peterhansel are fighting for stage wins rather than overall victory after a nightmare Sunday effectively wrecked their chances.
The Spaniard is seventh overall, but two hours and 19 minutes behind Al Attiyah, while 14-times winner Peterhansel is 23 hours adrift.