Loeb outpaces leader Sainz in drama-filled Dakar Rally

Al Attiyah’s hat-trick hopes shattered with a broken steering arm on his vehicle

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Top Stories

Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin in action in their Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter.- Supplied photo
Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin in action in their Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter.- Supplied photo

Published: Fri 12 Jan 2024, 7:38 PM

The Dakar Rally reached the halfway point in Saudi Arabia today as Sebastien Loeb claimed his second stage victory for Bahrain Raid Xtreme following more drama in the Empty Quarter.

Loeb and Fabian Lurquin in the BRX Prodrive Hunter completed the second part of the new two-day Chrono stage with a 2 mins 01 secs winning margin over outright rally leader Carlos Sainz in an Audi.

It was Loeb’s 25th stage success on the Dakar, taking him level with Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka as the joint sixth most decorated driver on the world’s biggest rally-raid event.

While Loeb climbed again to third place overall, Nasser Al Attiyah’s hopes of completing a hat-trick of Dakar victories were shattered when mechanical problems halted his Prodrive Hunter for more than two hours 40 minutes en route from the bivouac to the start this morning.

The rally now has a rest day in Riyadh before restarting with a 483km stage to Al Duwadimi on Sunday, with Sainz holding a 20 mins 21 secs lead over Audi team-mate Mattias Ekström heading for the finish in Yanbu next Friday.

Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin - Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter. - Supplied photo
Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin - Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter. - Supplied photo

Having finished runner-up to Al Attiyah for the last two years, Loeb, who is 9 mins away from second place again, was determined from the start to go one better this time, and developments today will remind him that the gap to Sainz is far from insurmountable.

The nine-time World Rally Champion, who was fastest on Stage 4, set a recorded-breaking six successive best times in Saudi last year at the wheel of his BRX Prodrive Hunter, and with six more stages remaining this time, could be on another roll.

He said at the finish today: “It’s great to win the difficult 48h Chrono stage after we’ve had two good days in the dunes. We knew 550kms in the Empty Quarter would be very hard for the car so I tried to take it a bit easier for the first part and not break anything on the first day.

“But for today it was more like a sprint, so I pushed quite hard to gain some time. Overall, it was good to do a strategy, but maybe we went a little bit too far as what we see is that others gained a bit of time in other ways, but OK. We are still in the game and that was the main objective to be within 30 minutes of the lead, but we will see as there is still a long way to go.”

ALSO READ

Five-time Dakar winner Al Attiyah broke a steering arm on a hub carrier in his vehicle and had to wait for his assistance truck to arrive to carry out repairs, allowing him to continue in the first round of this year’s World Rally-Raid Championship.

He said that his objective is the W2RC championship, that he will try to pick up as many points as possible, and that he will be ready to help fellow Prodrive Hunter driver Loeb if necessary.


More news from Sports