Sainz says 2018 Dakar "too much" for amateur crews
Carlos Sainz says the Peruvian leg that has opened this year's Dakar Rally has been "too much" for amateur drivers, amid a host of early retirements from the gruelling event.
Following another day of high attrition through the dunes on Tuesday, Sainz is now part of a three-car Peugeot attack that has pulled well clear of the opposition.
In terms of frontrunners, it was the Toyotas who were hit hardest on Tuesday, both Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giniel de Villiers struggling for pace compared to the Peugeots and dropping to 58m and 1h21m respectively from leader Stephane Peterhansel.
The French manufacturer didn't escape unscathed, though, with Cyril Despres going from second in the standings to way out of contention thanks to suspension damage after hitting a rock mid-way through the stage.
They aren't the first big names to be caught out by the tough start to this year's Dakar, with Mini drivers Bryce Menzies and Nani Roma both victims of early crashes, while reigning Moto winner Sam Sunderland is another high-profile early retirement.
With even the factory crews struggling, Sainz – who currently sits third on the road – says the route is too challenging for the amateur contingent making up the field.
"The stage has been very difficult, the hardest at the moment," he said. "[It's a] mixture of very complicated dunes; soft, very broken, and with falls. And areas of stones too.
"The start was extremely hard. I think for amateurs it has been too much, because today I do not know how many cars will finish the stage."
Leader Peterhansel echoed his teammate's thoughts about the first four stages of the event.
"For us it's okay because we are the factory cars, we have the best co-drivers and we are good drivers," he said.
"But for the amateurs, with a car with less performance, it would be really complicated. This Dakar is really complicated for the other competitors. More than last year, it's really complicated."
There were 43 retirements across all classes from the first three stages, while only 51 of the 73 competitors in the car class that started the fourth stage made it to the end within eight hours of stage winner Sebastian Loeb.
Additional reporting by Sergio Lillo
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