Ellina Mhlanga, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE’S top motor rally driver Conrad Rautenbach and his Portuguese co-driver Pedro Bianchi Prata continued with their good show at the on-going Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia when they completed Stage Seven of the tough race in position 10 yesterday as competition resumed after Saturday’s rest day.
The pair were five places down from their previous ranking for the sixth stage of the race where they finished fifth. But yesterday’s ranking after stage seven was still a good result for the Zimbabwean and his Portuguese navigator, completing the stage in 5hours 48minutes 6seconds.
They were 21minutes 31seconds adrift of winners Blade Hildebrand of the United States and co-driver Francois Cazalet.
The duo occupied the top position with a time of 5hours 26minutes 35seconds, followed by Casey Currie and Sean Berriman in 5hours 37minutes 50seconds.
On third place was the duo of Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton in 5hours 39minutes 51seconds.
However, the race is proving to be a tough challenge for Zimbabwean rider Graeme Sharp after he completed Stage Seven of the race in position 87 in the bikes’ section.
Sharp, competing at the world’s toughest race for the first time, ended the stage seven in 6hours 46minutes 4seconds.
Kevin Benavides was first in this stage in 4hours 36minutes 22seconds, followed by another Honda rider Joan Barrreda Bort with a time of 4hours 37minutes 45seconds.
In third position was Matthias Walkner in 4hours 40minutes 39seconds.
Although he may not be ranking among the top riders, Sharp, whose goal is to finish the race remains on track to achieve his target on his maiden appearance at the world’s toughest race.
Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz tightened his grip on the Dakar Rally with his third stage win of this year’s edition marked by the death of bike rider Paulo Goncalves yesterday.
Sainz in a Mini completed the longest special between Riyadh and Wadi ad-Dawasir over two minutes clear of Toyota rival Nasser Al-Attiyah with his fellow Mini driver Stephane Peterhansel in third.
The 57-year-old Sainz, a two-time former world rally champion, is in a strong position to add to his Dakar wins in 2010 and 2018.
With seven stages completed and five day’s racing to go the Spaniard enjoys a comfortable 10 minute cushion over last year’s winner Al-Attiyah, with 13-time Dakar champion Peterhansel a further nine minutes adrift.
Joan Barreda came out on top in the bikes category with American Ricky Brabec retaining his overall lead finishing fourth on the day.
Goncalves was killed after a crash at the 276 kilometre mark. The 40-year-old Portuguese, runner-up in 2015, was competing in his 13th Dakar.