Red Bull: Dakar Rally challenges competitors to find their way back to Neom

The spirit of adventure was in full effect on Stage 3 of the 2020 Dakar Rally as the competitors tackled a 414-kilometre loop around the future megalopolis of Neom. With a perilous mix of canyons, mountains and sandy ground to cover, leaderboards across all five categories were given another major shake up.

As the first Saudi Arabian Dakar reached its maximum altitude of 1,400 metres, so Carlos Sainz (ESP) hit the summit of the car class for the first time. Alongside co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) – who read the roadbook for Sainz during Dakar wins in 2010 and 2018 – ‘El Matador’ picked up the pace on Stage 3 in his Mini Buggy. Today’s stage win, the 33rd of his illustrious Dakar career, has given Sainz an overnight lead in the car race.

« The landscape was fantastic, even if we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it properly. » – Carlos Sainz

Staying closest to Sainz on the loop around Neom was defending car class champion Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT). Second place on the stage puts Al-Attiyah and Sainz in the top two positions of the general classification, separated by less than five minutes. The Dakar may have moved location, but a fight for the lead between Sainz and Al-Attiyah is something very familiar at the world’s toughest rally.

The third quickest car on Stage 3 belonged to Kuba Przygonski (POL) who put a couple of tough days behind him to get back up to speed. Meanwhile, Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) maintain their places in the overall Top 10.

Jakub Przygonski © Red Bull

« We lost so much time on the first day and now we’re determined to enjoy the rest of this rally. » – Kuba Przygonski

In the bike race it was navigation that was once again the big talking point with plenty of riders struggling to catch the waypoints. Ricky Brabec (USA) kept his Honda on course throughout to take the stage win. Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider Luciano Benavides (ARG) did his best to keep up despite the added difficultly of riding part of the way with an injured hand.

« A big rock span out from a rear wheel in front and hit my hand. I’m going to need to get that checked out. » – Luciano Benavides

Matthias Walkner © Red Bull

The consistency of Benavides’ team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) is paying dividends as he posted his third consecutive Top 10 finish. The 2018 Dakar champion is third overall, just six minutes behind race leader Brabec.

Walkner is joined in the Top 10 by fellow KTM Factory riders Benavides, Toby Price (AUS) and Sam Sunderland (GBR). Gas Gas rider Laia Sanz (ESP) is the top placed female after another tough day in Saudi Arabia.

Francisco Lopez Contardo © Red Bull

Two flat tyres forced Chaleco Lopez (CHI) to drive conservatively in the SxS race and as a result he has slipped back to second in the general classification, 15 seconds behind new overall leader Casey Currie (USA). Elsewhere in the SxS race, Dakar debutant Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) – member of the Red Bull Off-Road Team USA – retains his place in the overall Top 10.

« Overall, considering how much rough stuff there was on the stage I think we have to be happy with our result. » – Mitch Guthrie Jr

Guthrie Jr’s team-mates Cyril Despres (FRA) and Mike Horn (SUI) finished their day’s racing when their OT3 came to a standstill 274 kilometres into the special stage. They were brought back to the bivouac were their machine will be repaired overnight so they can continue their coaching mission from within the Dakar Experience class.

The third OT3 at the Dakar, driven by Blade Hildebrand (USA), was in contention for a stage win for more than 250 kilometres of the special. Unfortunately Hildebrand’s vehicle was struck with a technical issue with its transmission which ended his hunt for the day’s fastest SxS time. Hildebrand will join Despres and Horn in the Dakar Experience class tomorrow for Stage 4.

Dmitry Sotnikov, of Kamaz © Red Bull

Even in the truck race there was evidence of the damage that the stony ground in Saudi Arabia can do the vehicles at the Dakar. The mighty Kamaz race truck of Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) came off second best in a collision with a rock that broke its front axle.

It was a smoother ride for Sotnikov’s team-mate Andrey Karginov (RUS) who won the truck stage. Karginov is now second overall, two minutes behind race leader Siarhei Viazovich (BLR).

« I’m very happy to have Andrey Mokeev alongside me reading the roadbook, his experience is invaluable. » – Andrey Karginov

Ignacio Casale © Red Bull

In the quad race Ignacio Casale (CHI) had to settle for third place on the stage, but he maintains his overall lead. The two-time quad bike champion enjoys a 15-minute advantage over Rafal Sonik in second place.

Tomorrow’s stage takes the Dakar convoy on to Al Ula via a timed special stage of 453 kilometres. Heading west the route leaves behind the Red Sea and travels east across spectacular moonscape terrains.

Giniel De Villiers and Alex Haro © Red Bull

2020 Dakar Rally Car Race Top 5 (after Stage 3)
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP) MINI Buggy, 11h00m20s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota, +04m55s
3. Orlando Terranova (ARG) MINI Rally, +08m09s
4. Yazzed Al Rajhi (SAU) Toyota, +18m58s
5. Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) MINI Buggy, +19m00s


Matthias Walkner © Red Bull

2020 Dakar Rally Bike Race Top 5 (after Stage 3)
1. Ricky Brabec (USA) Honda, 10h39m04s
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG) Honda, +04m43s
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM, +06m02s
4. Joan Barreda (ESP) Honda, +11m02s
5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI) Honda, +11m19s

2020 Dakar Rally Side-by-side Race Top 3 (after Stage 3)
1. Casey Currie (USA) Can-Am, 13h15m16s
2. Chaleco Lopez (CHI) Can-Am, +15s
3. Jose Antonio Hinojo Lopez (ESP) Can-Am, +01m40s

Eduard Nikolaev  of KAMAZ © Red Bull

2020 Dakar Rally Truck Race Top 5 (after Stage 3)
1. Siarhei Viazovich (BLR) Maz, 11h34m01s
2. Andrey Karginov (RUS) Kamaz, +02m18s
3. Anton Shibalov (RUS) Kamaz, +20m01s
4. Martin Macik (CZE) Iveco, +38m59s
5. Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) Kamaz, +50m12s



Ignacio Casale © Red Bull

2020 Dakar Rally Quad Race Top 3 (after Stage 3)
1. Ignacio Casale (CHI) Yamaha, 13h38m05s
2. Rafał Sonik (POL) Yamaha, +14m29s
3. Giovanni Enrico (CHI) Yamaha, +19m39s…

Carlos Sainz: « It was a really nice stage. The landscape was fantastic, even if we didn’t have time to stop and enjoy it properly. Lucas (Cruz, co-driver) made a really good job with the navigation and we were able to attack. It’s still very early and anything can happen, but so far so good. »

Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) and Matthieu Baumel (FRA) of Toyota Gazoo Racing Team at the finish line of the stage 3 of Rally Dakar 2020 at Neom, Saudi Arabia on January 07, 2020.

Nasser Al-Attiyah: « It was another day of tricky navigation and we took it quite easy. Just one flat tyre today. It’ll be like this for the rest of the first week. Then we can see about starting to push when we arrive to the dunes. We’re enjoying the scenery so much, seeing beautiful mountains and nature as we go. »

Kuba Przygonski: « We were able to push from the beginning today. We were also able to help our team-mates fix a wheel. We lost so much time on the first day and now we’re determined to enjoy the rest of this rally. »

Stéphane Peterhansel: « It was another not so great stage for us. Things were fine until the last 100 kilometres. We were losing three or four minutes here and three or four minutes there. I also had a problem with my GPS, it was disconnected so I didn’t have the information I needed. »

Giniel De Villiers: « All the stages are tricky and opening the road was difficult this morning. The bikes are ahead of us leaving tracks and some of these are going in the wrong direction, it can make things quite stressful. Al Qassimi had a big crash right in front of us so we stopped and called the helicopter for him. After that I was able to follow the guys in front until the end of the stage. »

Luciano Benavides © Red Bull

Luciano Benavides: « I did OK today and my rhythm was good, but we all got lost. There was a big problem with one waypoint. Also, a big rock span out from a rear wheel in front and hit my hand. I’m going to need to get that checked out. »

Matthias Walkner: « We were really at the limit today with getting the roadbook in the morning and then some mistakes in the GPS. They want to make the rally difficult, but maybe this was a bit too far. You need to spend so much time looking at the roadbook and this means that in all the sand you can miss a big stone. »

Toby Price: « It was a difficult stage. In the morning I made a few little mistakes, but nothing too bad. Things were going smooth and consistent until near the end of the stage when there was an error in the roadbook. It was a bit of carnage to deal with. A rough day, but it’s done now. »

Chaleco Lopez: « We needed to stay so concentrated right until the end of this stage. The rocks were very dangerous on this stage, I have two tyres completely destroyed. In the end we had to slow down just to make sure we could make it to the end. »

Mitchell Guthrie © Red-Bull

Mitch Guthrie Jr.: « Overall, considering how much rough stuff there was on the stage I think we have to be happy with our result. Cyril (Despres) passed us at one point and we followed him along, that was a really cool experience. When the pack got lost I was able to see Cyril’s way of getting back on track, seeing how he reacts to a situation like that. It was another good day of learning. »

Cyril Despres: « It was a lovely day, Mike was enjoying it and we started to maintain a good pace. But since yesterday the engine temperature has been too high and after 274 kilometres it just stopped. »

Andrey Karginov: « No punctures or technical problems today on the stage. My navigator did a fantastic job, especially on the last 100 kilometres which were very difficult. I’m very happy to have Andrey Mokeev alongside me reading the roadbook, his experience is invaluable. »

Christine Fial,