Carlos Sainz has managed to hold onto the lead of the Dakar Rally after positing the third quickest time during Monday's third stage from Puerto Madryn to Jacobacci.

The Spaniard had moved into the lead of the event on the second stage after early leader Nasser Al-Attiyah ran into problems and the Volkswagen man headed into the third stage looking to increase his lead over team-mate Giniel de Villiers.

Sainz was able to extend his lead after setting the second quickest time behind Al-Attiyah, who had looked set to make large inroads into the former WRC title winners advantage before being slowed by a puncture, and he will head into stage four leading the event by three minutes and 40 seconds.

"Having won yesterday's leg, we started out in front today, which isn't always easy," he said, "and today's route was more varied and more demanding than on the first two days. With its winding sections, the middle part of today's route in particular was a lot more interesting than the previous legs. There were rocks all along the route so we tried to avoid getting any flat tyres."

Behind Sainz, Dieter Depping, de Villiers and Mark Martin all posted top six stage times and Depping is now the only VW man not inside the top six overall as the German marque looks to stamp its authority on the event through the early stages.

"We've defended our overall lead and claimed three of the top four positions on this leg - so once again, we can be happy with this result," VW motorsport director Kris Nissen said. "On the third day of driving, everything is still going according to schedule.

"I'm particularly delighted that Dieter Depping came third today, as he got off to an unlucky start on the first day. He managed to recoup some lost ground yesterday and today he has demonstrated that he is still very much in the race. All in all, we are very happy. But we also know that there's a long way to go yet."