“An lot of career remains and every day it changes from one place to another, so caution,” Sainz warns, with 18 minutes ahead.

Moment in which the Toyota of Alonso overturns in the Dakar.
Vctor Crow

The relative comforts of the previous days, sheltered from the motorhomes installed in the road, gave way to the deprivations of an enclosure that looked more like a refugee camp. Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso, like the rest of the participants of the 226 surviving vehicles, had to accommodate their bones to sleep in one of the berths, three stories each, or the dozens of mattresses scattered on every corner of the ground floor. The favorite number one for the final triumph and the main attraction of the Dakar share space with the humblest or the happiest. Nani Roma, to name an illustrious one, had taken almost four and a half hours to reach the goal, almost on the border with the United Arab Emirates.

The democratization of suffering, one of the basic laws of this race, affected Alonso yesterday and benefited Sainz. The Spaniard suffered a spectacular turnaround at the beginning of the stage that frustrated his aspirations to reach the top 10 of the general, while the Madrid saw with relief the partial suspension of the marathon day. The strong winds on the road to Shubaytah did not guarantee safety, so the organizers mutilated the second part of the tour. After amassing more than a quarter of an hour's advantage over Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stephane Peterhansel in the initial stretch, Sainz took a crucial step towards his third title in the Dakar.

“We have suffered a small traspis, but the news is that we are here, fourteenth overall. It is our first Dakar and we continue running,” Alonso value with sincere pride, without giving too much importance to the 77 minutes delivered to the goal. Nor was he affected after the two bell turns of his Toyota, which shattered the windshield and an arm of the suspension.

Tremendous turnaround of Fernando Alonso in the Dakar

The waypoint key

The only priority was to reach the goal and have time to repair the car with the spare parts of the assistance road. Without the cooperation of the mechanics, whose work is vetoed in the marathon stages, the voice of the experience of Marc Coma, his co-pilot, seemed essential.

So many years in this rally they also made sense for Lucas Cruz, right hand of Sainz, whose Mini claimed some arrangements after a spectacular each from a six-meter dune. Not every year a sandstorm with such solvency is overcome, reaching the waypoint key with precision and punctuality. A mandatory crossing point where Al-Attiyah and Peterhansel were lost.

“Every day changes”

“We were lucky, we found it well,” Sainz explained humbly, without looking away at the time table, which today leaves him 18 minutes away from his two only opponents. “An lot of career remains and every day it changes from one place to another, so prudence,” the champion valued in 2010 and 2018, with chiseled fatigue on his face.

Any call to caution seems scarce for Sainz in these two definitive days, with 379 and 374 km timed. The appetite for glory must be contained with strict zeal. Only his friend Fernando can afford more attacks. “We have not come for a walk. We went out to the race to try to make good times and to try to win. You can fail, but what you can't do is not try,” he warned.

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