CONRAD Rautenbach further kept his hopes of challenging for the coveted title in this year’s Dakar Rally alive after powering to a sixth place finish during the prestigious race’s third stage in Neom, Saudi Arabia yesterday to follow up on his third place finish on Monday.

The 35-year-old top Zimbabwean rally driver finished the 427km super stage, three minutes 48 seconds behind the stage winner Gerard Guell from Spain, while Russian Sergei Kariakin finished in second position.

Rautenbach’s solid performance moved him into sixth position on the overall standings in the SSV category, 22 minutes, 50 seconds behind the lead held by American motor rally driver Casey Currie with nine stages left in the 2020 Dakar Rally.

Currie finished third during yesterday’s third stage to take the lead in the general standings, just 15 seconds ahead of Chilean motor rally driver Francisco Lopez.

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The two-time African Rally Champion spoke to after the third stage of his strategy during the third stage.

“During the first part we had to go quite slowly with all the rocks and canyons and the last part was really nice and sandy and the beautiful landscape. We pushed a little bit more, the car is fantastic, Pedro is doing a good job on the navigation so it’s all good,” he said.

Rautenbach was full of praises for the desert landscape in Saudi Arabia saying it offered the true test expected in a gruelling rally event such as the Dakar.

“From what I’ve seen so far Saudi Arabia is beautiful, the country has nice landscape, all the perfect ingredients for a Dakar. I’m very happy so far,” he said.

Meanwhile Zimbabwe’s other representative Graeme Sharp put on a solid performance to finish 82nd out of the remaining 121 competitors in the motorbike section to move to position 89 on the overall standings.

Ross Branch of Botswana — who won the second stage in the bike section on Monday — finished in position 41 yesterday after stopping during the race to help fellow competitor Andrew Short from USA jeopardising his place.