The American takeover of this year’s Dakar Rally continued on Wednesday, as the first leg of the marathon stage from Haradh to Shubaytah saw both motorcycle leader Ricky Brabec and SSV leader Casey Currie grow their overall advantages to comfortable margins. Brabec’s lead over Pablo Quintanilla is now more than 25 minutes, while Currie’s lead is now up to 46 minutes over Sergei Kariyakin after defending class winner Chaleco Lopez lost an hour thanks in part to an early puncture.
But that wasn’t the only good news for the Americans on hand. Robbed of his second career stage win earlier this week after a 50-hour penalty for an engine change, Mitch Guthrie Jr. beat fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Blade Hildebrand by just 25 seconds in today’s action. All told, Americans comprised four of the top 10 finishers on the day, with AJ Jones continuing his Dakar debut in fourth and Currie in seventh. While Guthrie and Hildebrand aren’t in the overall classification any longer, Jones remains sixth in the standings as the top SSV rookie, and is well within half an hour of a podium position.
Carlos Sainz’ disappointing run to Haradh on Tuesday erased all but 24 seconds of his advantage over Nasser Al-Attiyah, but the former World Rally Champion and two-time Dakar winner regained his edge on Wednesday. With his fourth stage victory of the rally, as well as middling finishes for both Al-Attiyah and Tuesday stage winner Stephane Peterhansel, the Spanish driver now leads by more than 18 minutes. The battle for second is still exciting, though, as Al-Attiyah’s lead over Peterhansel for that spot is down to just 16 seconds.
On the quads, Ignacio Casale made a rare navigation error to finish off of the stage podium for the first time all year. His lead was more than substantial enough coming into the day to keep him more than 16 minutes ahead of Simon Vitse, but losing more than 40 minutes in the same area where Al-Attiyah made a navigation mistake nonetheless opened the door with just two days remaining. Truck leader Andrey Karginov also missed the stage podium on the day, but still finished fifth, losing only two minutes and change to Kamaz teammate and stage winner Anton Shibalov in the overall standings.
NBC Sports Network coverage of this year’s Dakar Rally continues with back-to-back episodes tonight at 6PM ET/3PM PT, starting with yesterday’s stage from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh and following up with coverage from Haradh to Shubaytah. Thursday will see competitors head back to Haradh for the second half of the marathon stage, while the event will complete on Friday with a run to Qiddiyah. For those who have missed TV coverage, NBCSN will re-run all of its broadcasts starting from Stage 3 in Neom beginning at 1PM ET/10AM PT on Friday, leading up to the finale at 6PM ET/3PM PT.