WADI AL-DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia – Mathieu Serradori of SRT Racing won on Monday the eighth stage of 2020 Dakar Rally in cars, beating Toyota’s Fernando Alonso.
The Frenchman, who claimed his maiden stage victory at this year’s edition of the race – held for the first time in Saudi Arabia –, was four minutes and four seconds faster than Alonso.
“I am absolutely delighted. It is a wonderful story,” said Serradori, dedicating his victory to Portuguese motorcycle racer Paulo Gonçalves, who died on Sunday in an accident during the seventh stage of bikes.
Alonso said he is “happy to complete the day without any issues. It was a beautiful stage, quite fast with a lot of dunes, so it was good.
“I think the dunes are harder than tracks, but for whatever reason I feel more comfortable … I am enjoying so far this second week of the Dakar,” the two-time Formula One champion added.
Argentine X-raid driver Orlando Terranova came third, followed by South Africa’s Giniel De Villiers and Saudi Yazeed al-Rajhi.
Meanwhile, Spanish Mini driver Carlos Sainz crossed the finish line 15th to be behind Alonso for the first time in this year’s race.
Although he was 19 minutes and 15 seconds off the pace, Sainz held onto the top spot in the general rankings of the Dakar car race.
“Very difficult day without the bikes. We knew it was a day to limit damages. Tomorrow we attack again!” Sainz posted to Twitter.
The eighth stage of the rally in the bikes and quads categories initially scheduled for Monday was canceled following the death of Gonçalves.
This marked the first death of a Dakar Rally participant in five years. The last fatality was Polish motorcyclist Michal Hernik, who died of dehydration.
The 2020 Dakar Rally is being held in Saudi Arabia, with the 12 stages from Jeddah to Qiddiya being run Jan. 5-17.
This is the first edition of the race to take place in Asia and the second in a row to be held entirely in one country after Peru.