On the longest stage so far in this year’s rally, the Sainz/Cruz combination in the #202 RS Q e-tron were back on the podium again the day after their historic stage win.

6 January, 2022

Just a day after achieving the first-ever win for the Audi RS Q e-tron in the Dakar Rally, Carlos Sainz and co-driver, Lucas Cruz were again right up at the pointy end of the field after the longest leg in this year’s Dakar Rally so far.

Leading the way on the 465 kilometre timed leg, Sainz was on song once again, and even a damaged driveshaft with 130 Kilometres to go in the stage couldn’t stop the Spaniard from finishing on the podium. His final time of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 22 seconds was just 52 seconds behind overall leader, Nassa Al-Attiyah, securing third place on the day and making it the third consecutive podium result for Audi in the RS Q e-tron’s maiden competitive outing.

It was a tremendous result, particularly given that as the previous day’s winner, Sainz started first and had the disadvantage of ‘opening the road’ for the other competitors to follow. This places additional pressure on the lead vehicle which is not only trying to set the fastest time possible, but is also navigating ‘from scratch’ and doesn’t have the advantage of being able to follow the tyre tracks of earlier competitors.

“I think it was a fairly good stage,” Sainz said after the mammoth stage. “I think we had a good pace considering we were opening the road.”

Unfortunately their teammates didn’t fare quite so well. A broken rear damper made the going tough for Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist, resulting in a loss of 39 minutes by the end of the stage, and the woes continued for Mr Dakar, Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver, Edouard Boulanger. They suffered a similar issue that also damaged the cooling system of the their RS Q e-tron. The damage was such that once again, the duo were forced to await the arrival of the Audi support vehicle – the second time since the incident on Sunday that saw the rear wheel and suspension torn from the car.

At the end of Stage 4 (Day 5), the result sees Sainz and Cruz move eight places up the overall ladder to 18th position outright, with the #224 RS Q e-tron of Ekström/Bergkvist in 22nd and #200 of Peterhansel/Boulanger well back in 64th.