Dakar Rally 2022, Day 3: Solid results for U.S. drivers and riders in the desert

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Led by Seth Quintero’s stage victory in the light prototype class, drivers and riders racing under the U.S. banner had a strong Day 3 of the 2022 Dakar Rally.

Quintero rebounded Tuesday for his third stage victory this year during the endurance classic in Saudi Arabia. A broken differential during the second stage had knocked the American from the overall lead and a shot at title contention after winning the prologue and first stage.

Despite the victory, Quintero still is ranked 25th and nearly 17 hours off the overall lead because of Monday’s time losses. At 19, he was trying to become the youngest Dakar Rally winner in history.

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“For sure, it’s definitely been quite a Dakar,” Quintero said. “We’ve got three wins out of the four stages that we’ve done, which is awesome, but unfortunately, we’re very far down on the overall. Last night we got back to the bivouac at about four o’clock in the morning and hit the road at 8 a.m. and here we are with a stage win by about six minutes.

“We couldn’t have had a better day and we’re going to keep on chugging along and grab some more wins. It is definitely difficult to keep the motivation going knowing that we are out of the overall classification, but we’re just going to try and score some championship points and keep moving. We’re just going to try and keep ticking off the wins and hopefully we can grab a few more.”

The best American hope for a class victory now might be Austin Jones, who remained the overall leader by over 5 minutes in SSV after a fourth-place finish Tuesday in the 636-kilometer segment around Al Qaysumah.

In the bike division, American riders had their best showing of the 2022 Dakar Rally. Mason Klein finished third Tuesday, just over a minute behind stage winner Joaquim Rodrigues and the first of four Americans in the top eight. Skyler Howes took fourth, followed by former Supercross star Andrew Short (sixth) and 2020 Dakar winner Ricky Brabec (seventh).

Howes, who has moved to Husqvarna Factory Racing this year after strong showings as a privateer, is ranked fourth overall and just under 4 minutes behind Sam Sunderland.

“Today was the first time that in my life that I’ve opened the track on the Dakar rally,” Howes said. “It was a cool feeling, and I’m super proud of the way I navigated. It wasn’t exactly perfect, but I did a pretty good job. I started fourth on the track and I crossed the line physically first, so yes, this was a really cool day. There were some tricky notes out there, some hidden waypoints that were difficult to find, but luckily we got them all and reached the finishing line safely.

“I wouldn’t say I pushed to the maximum today. I rode what I thought was a comfortable pace, though the pace is really high now on the Dakar, it’s almost like a sprint race. So, if you don’t push every day you’re going to be off the pace. So, today I rode fairly conservatively but still within my means. I’m proud of it. It’s really cool to be on the pace. I mean, last year I was on a rental bike as a privateer and now I’m here on a factory Husqvarna competing against the best in the world so it’s really cool.”

In the Quad category, Pablo Copetti, an Argentine who races under the U.S. banner, maintained his overall lead with a Stage 3 victory.

Nasser Al-Attiyah continued to hold the overall lead of the 2022 Dakar Rally in the cars division over Sebastien Loeb (who lost more than 30 minutes with a mechanical failure that left him with two-wheel drive). Three-time event winner Carlos Sainz scored the first stage victory Tuesday (and the 40th of his career) in an Audi RS Q e-Tron.

“For sure, I’m disappointed,” Loeb said. “I’m happy to be at the end of the stage losing only 33 minutes – it could have been even worse, but that’s like it is. The fight with Nasser will be very difficult. He is far in front.”

Al-Attiyah said he drove more cautiously after Loeb struggled.

“I think Seb had a problem with the car and we just tried to take it easy without any risks,” Al-Attiyah said. “I’m quite happy to finish the stage without any problems. This will be good (as Wednesday) is a very long stage. I think we need to be really careful on the long stages.

“Today was a good day for us. I wasn’t surprised to be caught by Carlos because I was going very slowly. It was not a surprise because my main target is Sébastien Loeb not Carlos Sainz. I don’t need to fight with Carlos because he is too far from us.”

There are nine stages remaining in the race.

Here are the top three in each category after Day 3:

Car

Stage 3 winner: Carlos Sainz (ESP), 2:26:51. Overall: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 9:31:22; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 10:09:02; 3. Lucio Alvarez (ARG), Overdrive Toyota, 10:13:28.

Bike

Stage 3 winner: Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), 2:34:41. Overall: 1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GasGas Factory Racing, 11:13:40; 2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 11:13:44; 3. Matthias Walkner (AUS), GasGas Factory Racing, 11:15:10. Other U.S. notables: 4. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 11:17:35; 13. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 11:39:55; 16. Andrew Short, Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 11:45:45; 20. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 12:04:19.

Truck

Stage 3 winner: Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), 2:43:25. Overall: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 10:42:32; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 10:54:17; 3. Andrey Karginov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 11:02:16.

Light prototype

Stage 3 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), 2:52:23. Overall: 1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 11:27:54; 2. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 11:37:03; 3. Pavel Lebedev (RAF) MSK Rally Team, 11:54:59.

SSV

Stage 3 winner: Marek Goczal (POL), 2:58:46. Overall: 1. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 11:53:53; 2. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 11:59:16; Gerard Farres Guell (ESP) 12:07:57.

Quad

Stage 3 winner: Pablo Copetti (USA) 3:12:48. Overall: 1. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally Team, 14:10:56; 2. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 14:26:25; 3. Aleksandir Maksimov (RAF), Chyr Mari, 14:40:08.