Dakar: Sainz leads, Al-Attiyah falls out of the favourites

Dakar: Sainz leads, Al-Attiyah falls out of the favourites

Today Sebastien Loeb took his second victory in the Dakar rally stage, and we talked about it. But it is worth adding that his team, Sebastien Loeb Racing, won the toughest 48-hour stage in the SSV class, but everything is fine.

Loeb took his 25th victory in the Dakar stages, equaling in this respect Japanese racer Hiroshi Masuoka, who competed for the once glorious Mitsubishi factory team from the late 1980s to 2009 and won this supermarathon twice, in 2002 and 2003.

But second at the finish in Shubaytakh, losing just over two minutes to Loeb, was Carlos Sainz, who leads the overall standings with a 20-minute lead after the first week of competition. Second place goes to Matthias Ekström, his teammate from the Audi Sport factory team, who completed the two-day stage with the third fastest time.

“The stage was quite difficult, but I think we did well,” Sainz summarized the two days. – We had a problem towards the end, we got stuck in one place, lost a few minutes, but overall we had two good days. So far we are happy. However, there is still a long way to go, so a lot can still happen.”

A lot has happened already, including the recent favorite, last year’s Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, dropping out of the contenders for victory. With less than 50 km to go before the stage finish, the steering of his Prodrive Hunter racing SUV malfunctioned and the crew was unable to repair the fault themselves. As a result, they did not reach the bivouac until the 1930s with a delay of more than 2 hours and 45 minutes.

“It’s a bad day,” said the five-time Dakar winner. “During the last 50 km we broke the handlebars and there was nothing we could do to fix it ourselves. We waited for the technical assistance truck, fixed everything and then headed to the finish.

We try to keep moving and see what we can achieve. Yesterday we started the stage well, but it was difficult and we understood that although we lost time, everything went more or less well. But eventually there was a break.

But all is not lost, we will try to show some results, now focusing on the World Cross-Country Rally Championship. I will also try to help my partner, Sebastien Loeb, and cover him. At least he can still win the Dakar. I will do everything in my power for him, because we are one team.”

Among the bikers, Adrien Van Beveren, a French factory rider from the Honda team, best coped with the challenges that had to be overcome on the route that passed through the Rub al-Khali desert. This is his first stage win in the rally raid in 2024. After the sixth stage he takes 3rd place in class, not so much behind Ricky Brabec and Ross Branch – only 9 minutes and 21 seconds.

In the ATV category, the stage was won by Alexandre Giraud, Van Beveren’s compatriot.

In the Challenger class, the leader is still 19-year-old Pole Erik Gochal, for whom this is his Dakar debut, but apparently the right heredity helps him – his father, Marek Gochal, and his uncle Michal are experienced rally raid masters . Suffice it to say that it was Michal Gochal who took second place on the stage, losing to his cousin by almost 16 minutes.

And third at the finish was Spanish racer Cristina Gutierrez, known to us from the Extreme E off-road series, where she competed for Lewis Hamilton’s team.

In the SSV category (T4 or off-road vehicles), French racer Xavier de Soltre and his co-driver Martin Bonnet from Sebastien Loeb’s team celebrated another success. But based on the results of six stages, they are still third and Yasser Seidan, a representative of Saudi Arabia, is in the lead. At the same time, second place in the class is taken by the American Sarah Price, who showed the 4th result today.

The leader in the freight class has changed: victory in today’s stage of the rally raid allowed the Czech trio of Martin Masik, Frantisek Tomasek and David Svanda, driving an Iveco Powerstar, to lead the overall standings. In second place in this category are their compatriots, the team of Alex Loprais, who showed the 3rd fastest time over the distance of the 48-hour stage, losing just over seven minutes to the Dutchman Michel van Brink.

Saturday is a rest day in Dakar, which participants in the rally attack will spend in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, riders on motorcycles and ATVs will be transported there by air, while everyone else will have to get there themselves.

But only the racers and their co-drivers will be able to rest to some extent, and the team mechanics will have to sort out equipment that was badly battered during the first half of the supermarathon distance. There is still a whole week of intense battle ahead; the 12th, final stage of the rally raid will take place on January 19.

Everyone will start again on Sunday morning: in the 7th stage they have to cover 873 km, of which 483 km are fast special stages. Furthermore, the first part of the route runs along a winding gorge with constant changes in direction, after which the sand and dunes start again.

Source: F1 News

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