Carlos Sainz takes Dakar Rally lead following 33rd career stage win in deserts of Neom

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Bahrain JCW X-Raid Team's Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz during stage 3 in the deserts of Neom. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 January 2020

Carlos Sainz takes Dakar Rally lead following 33rd career stage win in deserts of Neom

  • After struggling Monday, Attiyah’s teammate and ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso came in fifth
  • Overnight leader Orlando Terranova of Argentina and second stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa both fell back

NEOM: Spain’s two-time champion Carlos Sainz, driving a Mini, shot into the overall lead after winning Tuesday’s third stage of the Dakar Rally, his 33rd stage victory in the race being held this year in Saudi Arabia.

Sainz clocked 3hr 48.01sec around the loop-shaped 404km route setting out from the future megalopolis of Neom, in the north of the kingdom close to the Jordanian border.

Racing over a sequence of canyons and mountains on sandy terrain, climbing to this year’s summit at 1,400 meters (4,593ft) in altitude, the 57-year-old Sainz beat home Qatar’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, in his Toyota, by 3:31.

“We finished the stage and today was a big day. We finished second,” said Attiyah, who suffered one flat tire and described navigation as “difficult.”

“It was a good day and we’re second in the general standings overall. Tomorrow, I hope it will be a good day because I will start behind Carlos and we can get a good time.

“We just need to finish this week and then next week we can decide to push because there are a lot of dunes.”

After struggling Monday, Attiyah’s teammate and ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso came in fifth.

Two Saudi drivers finished in the top 6 of a stage for the firt time in the history of the Dakar Rally after fine drives from Yasir Seaidan and Yazeed Al-Rajhi.

However, it was bad news for Emirati pilot Sheikh Khalid bin Faisal Al-Qassimi who crashed out and saw his Dakar Rally come to an abrupt end after wrecking his Peugeot vehicle.

Overnight leader Orlando Terranova of Argentina and second stage winner Giniel de Villiers of South Africa both trailed in behind Sainz.

Mini’s Terranova not only lost the lead in the general standings but finished 12:52 behind the stage winner, while De Villiers was 16:21 off the pace in his Toyota.

“It was really tricky navigation once more, but I managed to follow them quite easily, though, for sure, Nasser and Carlos were going really fast today,” the South African said.

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CHECK OUT PHOTOS OF STAGE 3'S ACTION

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In the motorbike category, American Honda rider Ricky Brabec dominated the stage to storm into overall lead.

Brabec finished almost 10 minutes ahead of teammate Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, in second, with a third Honda rider, Joan Barreda Bort, rounding out the stage’s podium.

Defending champion Toby Price of Australia, finished 35 minutes off the pace on his KTM.

The stage was marked by several falls, the most dramatic arguably by Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren, who lost control of his Yamaha and was pitched violently over the handlebars into the sand after just three kilometers. He received medical treatment on site, but was forced to withdraw from the rest of the race.

Wednesday’s fourth stage sees the rally leave northwestern Saudi Arabia, a 453km special on a mix of sandy stretches and gravel sections, mostly on tracks, past Nabaetean temples toward the historic walled city of AlUla.


Europe mulls finishing football season at end of year

Updated 28 March 2020

Europe mulls finishing football season at end of year

  • The novel coronavirus has created an existential challenge to the world’s most widely played and watched sport
  • Most European leagues are supposed to start their 2019-20 seasons at the end of August

ROME: Europe’s football bosses have not given up hope of finishing this pandemic-hit season — even if it might have to be done at the start of the next one.
The novel coronavirus has created an existential challenge to the world’s most widely played and watched sport.
Europe’s football leagues are the planet’s richest and can afford to pay the most money to the biggest stars.
But that system could come crumbling down quickly if there is nothing to show on TV.
Cristian Ronaldo has not had a chance to celebrate goals for Juventus for nearly three weeks because Italy’s Serie A had to shut down.
He and other Italian league stars are thinking of giving up millions of euros in salary to help their teams stay solvent.
UEFA boss Aleksander Ceferin told Italy’s La Repubblica daily that he was holding urgent talks with the continent’s biggest leagues to figure out what can be done.
The Slovenian said all options were under consideration in an effort to salvage the season and preserve the sanctity of the beautiful game.
“We could start again in mid-May, in June or even late June,” Ceferin said.
Any time after that and “the season will probably be lost.”
The idea of the entire season simply being canceled stirs panic in fans of clubs such as Liverpool — on the cusp of lifting their first title in 30 years.
Ronaldo’s Juventus would probably not be terribly happy either. The men in the famous black-and-white stripes are edging Lazio by a point in their race for a ninth successive title and are still in the Champions League, which they have not won since 1996.
Ceferin said he opposed the idea of playing games in empty stadiums and would prefer to wait out the pandemic.
He also hinted that some big teams appeared ready to delay the start of next season in ordered to finish out this one.
“There is also a proposal to end this season at the beginning of the next one and then start the next one a little later,” Ceferin said.
Serie A and most other European leagues were originally supposed to have finished in May.
Belarus remain the only European nation still playing football in the face of a pandemic that by Saturday had officially claimed nearly 30,000 lives.
Italy’s world-leading death toll from Friday was 9,134.
But the scheduling is growing tricky and time appears to be running out.
Most European leagues are supposed to start their 2019-20 seasons at the end of August.
Italy still has more than two regular months of matches of the 2018-19 season to play out.
A resumption of the current season at the end of June would probably require a delay to the start of the next one until at least September or October.
It would also mean that players get very little rest and would also create problems for those whose contracts are expiring in June.
Italian Football Federation (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina sounded fine with that.
“We would all be happy to finish the season on the pitch,” said Gravina told Sky television.
“We are in contact with FIFA for contract extensions if we need to go beyond June 30.”
Gravina did not explain why he was talking to the world football governing body and not the European one headed by Ceferin.
But he did conceded that his earlier hope of restarting Italian matches in early May was now almost certainly dashed.
“I am aware that it is still too early,” said Gravina. “But we must think positively.”