Dakar rookie Sainz continues good start

Carlos Sainz kept up his perfect start to the Dakar Rally with a second stage win in Portugal.

Carlos Sainz kept up his perfect start to the Dakar Rally with a second stage win in Portugal.

But the former world rally champion believes he will not find out if he can win the event on his debut until the race reaches the deserts of North Africa.

The hilly course and slippery tracks between Portimao and Malaga in Spain suited the VW driver as he took his second stage win.

Sainz said: “Everything went fine today, I had even more pleasure than yesterday on the course.”

He added: “It’s not that perfect to have the leadership before joining Africa. I’m still waiting for the desert to know what I can really do over there.”

Sainz took one hour, 34 minutes and 28 seconds to cover the stage, beating Frenchman Luc Alphand’s Mitsubishi by 25 seconds.

Alphand said: “That was a fantastic WRC stage, the pace was much higher than usual in the Dakar and I was a bit worried about the cliffs on the side of the course.

“Since our car has been made for the desert, Portugal was not the perfect ground for us but I did quite well in these two stages.

“My goal in Portugal was to stay in touch with the front-runners.”

Title holder Stephane Peterhansel was down in sixth after a puncture once again ruined his day.

Portugal’s Ruben Faria made the most of local knowledge to win the motorcycle stage on his KTM.

Faria was riding on terrain he knows well and used his expertise to good effect as he kept new leader Isidre Esteve Pujol behind him during the day.

Faria’s time of 1:37.07 was over a minute faster than the KTM-Gauloises of Esteve.

Title-holder Cyril Despres, who had won the opening stage, was 11th on his KTM as he stayed in contention ahead of the tougher African stages.

Faria is still trying to make up a 12-minute time penalty and is well behind the leaders despite finishing second and first on the opening two days.

Pujol admitted he had found the conditions difficult and was happy to take the overall lead.

He said: “The track was a real ice-skating rink today. So I couldn’t ride as fast as I wished. But it was an enjoyable stage.

“Actually, these two first stages in Portugal were very pleasant. There were a lot of fans, the people were very welcoming in a good atmosphere.

“But of course, the real Dakar has not started yet.”

The competitors faced a seven-hour sea crossing from Malaga before the rally’s first desert stage in Morocco tomorrow between Nador and Er Rachidia.

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