Dakar Rally: Sebastien Loeb Extends Lead After Stage 3

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France's 9-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb is going great guns at the 2016 Dakar Rally, topping the time charts for the second time in 2 days as the third stage of the gruelling 2-week rally-raid ended on Tuesday.

Making his Dakar Rally debut, Loeb clocked 2hr 9min 39sec over 190km between the Argentinian towns of Termas de Rio Hondo and San Salvador de Jujuy in his Peugeot to consolidate his place atop the overall standings.

Mini-driving defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah of Qatar sits in fifth place overall, 6min 50sec adrift of Loeb, and just behind the Mini of Finland's Mikko Hirvonen, Loeb's former WRC rival who is also making his Dakar Rally debut.

"It seems that the times will be very close between the drivers," said the 41-year-old Loeb, adding that the desert stages would be a real test. "I pushed hard and I had a good stage with no mistakes. Everything is okay at the moment."

Loeb, who has been racing in the World Touring Car Championship since effectively retiring from WRC rallying after the last of his 9 consecutive world titles in 2012, added: "For the moment, for sure, I'm enjoying it. It has been 2 good days for me.

"The car is going very well. I have a good feeling with the car. It's performing well. So, at the moment, I'm enjoying it," said the Frenchman, who spent his illustrious WRC career at the wheel of a Citroen.

"At the moment we are on tracks... so I've got a good feeling on this type of road. But when we go to the desert, it will be different, with long and hot stages. That is something that I don't know very well, so we will see.

"We will continue for the moment and I'll try to do my best and we'll see where we are in a few days," said Loeb, accompanied by long-time co-driver and fellow rally-raid novice Daniel Elena.

Spain's Joan Barreda Bort, on a Honda, was the fastest in the motorcycle section of the stage, shortened because of bad weather. It was a good day for Honda as its riders Kevin Benavides of Argentina and Paulo Goncalves of Portugal were second and third, respectively.

(With inputs from AFP)

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