14:17 Carlos Sainz has managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, erasing what looked like an insurmountable deficit to take the stage by 25 seconds over his frenemy Stéphane Peterhansel. The 2020 champion is now in control of the overall by just eight seconds over his teammate. What a show by the stars of the Mini clan!
14:05 Carlos Sainz faltered in the last quarter of the stage to finish second at km 222, 3’44’ behind Stéphane Peterhansel.
13:30 Stéphane Peterhansel produced a virtuoso performance to finish the first stage in the lead, although fellow Mini driver Carlos Sainz has yet to go through km 222 and could well end up claiming victory in this clash of titans.
13:05 Carlos Sainz held onto his lead at km 177 by just nine seconds over his big rival and X-Raid teammate Stéphane Peterhansel. They have 100 km left to land the knockout blow!
12:45 Nasser Al-Attiyah seems to be struggling today after winning yesterday’s prologue. 177 kilometres into the special, the Qatari has already conceded over 10 minutes to provisional leader Stéphane Peterhansel.
12:43 Stéphane Peterhansel was the fastest driver at km 177, with Vaidotas Žala close behind at just over a minute. We are now waiting for Carlos Sainz…
12:12 Carlos Sain’s aggressive driving is being rewarded with the provisional lead. The Mini driver has toppled Stéphane Peterhansel from the top of the classification by 32 seconds, with Vaidotas Žala one second behind the Frenchman.
11:51 After suffering a puncture and starting today’s stage far behind his main rivals, Carlos Sainz is only 27 seconds adrift of Vaidotas Žala at km 71.
11:40 Stéphane Peterhansel has taken over the reins of the car race with just one second to spare over Vaidotas Žala. The two men are locked in a fierce duel, with Martin Prokop ready to pounce on any opening at 1′49″.
11:21 Vaidotas Žala is still in the lead after 71 kilometres with half a minute to spare over Stéphane Peterhansel. Giniel De Villiers has faded somewhat and is now almost 2 minutes and 30 seconds down, but still ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
11:08 Vaidotas Zala is now in control of the car race. The Lithuanian and his Mini are setting themselves up for a repeat of their victory in last year’s inaugural stage. Giniel De Villiers and Stéphane Peterhansel were second and third, respectively, at the first checkpoint.