deabbba de e bed eacb

2024 Dakar Rally finally reaches Riyadh Rest Day after gruelling first week dominated by dunes

The 48-hour Chrono Stage was the final sting in the tail of the first week at the 2024 Dakar Rally. More than 500 kilometres of racing through the mighty dunes of the Empty Quarter desert saw race leaders and defending Dakar champions fall away. Now the convoy enters the midway Rest Day bivouac in Saudi Arabia’s capital city Riyadh. With half a dozen treacherous stages still to race, the Dakar Rally promises plenty more surprises to come.

Story of Stage Six: Experience pays off big time

Carlos Sainz put all of his off-road racing experience into devising a strategy for the never-before-seen 48-hour Chrono Stage. By holding back on Stage Five the Audi RS Q e-tron driver booked himself a slot as the 17th car to start Stage Six and its two-day route through the dunes measuring 547 kilometres.
Sainz started Stage Six in third place overall, 11m31s off the lead of the Ultimate class. After the 61-year-old got his tactics spot on he finished Stage Six at the top of the general classification with a cushion of 20m21s over his nearest rival, fellow Team Audi Sport driver Mattias Ekström.
“There’s still a long way to go, but we are happy for the moment. It was a very difficult track for everybody, the stage was physically challenging to drive.” – Carlos Sainz
Also proving tactically astute on the two-day stage around the Shubaytah bivouac was Sébastien Loeb who won the 25th stage of his Dakar career. This feat sees Loeb equal Hiroshi Masuoka as the driver with the sixth most Dakar stage wins.
“It was a good stage for us. We started the stage as the 35th car and we finished it as the seventh car to cross the finish line. That was the plan that we had for this stage and it’s good that we could make it work.” – Sébastien Loeb
The shock news on day one of Stage Six was race leader Yazeed Al-Rajhi rolling out of the race. On day two it was the massive time losses of defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah that made the headlines. A broken steering arm saw the five-time Dakar winner lose close to three hours. While victory at this Dakar may now be out of sight, the Qatari is determined to fight on for valuable World Championship points and lend assistance to fellow Prodrive Hunter driver Loeb wherever possible.
“Everything is not finished, but now we’ll try to play for the World Championship. I will also try to help Seb, to be behind him. At least he can win this Dakar. I will do my best for him to win because we are a team.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Lucas Moraes, Guillaume de Mévius and Giniel de Villiers all arrived to Riyadh with the hope of breaking onto the overall podium in the second week. This trio of Toyota drivers are placed fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.
“I’m very happy with our first week. We got a stage win and that was a very special moment for us. Now we’ve finished this 48-hour stage. It was tricky, we were in the dunes all the time so the average speed was very low.” – Lucas Moraes
It’s been a tough first week in the Ultimate class for 21-year-old Seth Quintero behind the wheel of his Toyota GR DKR Hilux. The young American will now be out to score stage victories before reaching the finish line in Yanbu on February 19.
“We’re here at the end of Stage Six and thankfully heading into the Rest Day. That was by far the most brutal stage I think any of us have ever done.” – Seth Quintero
Just one place back from Al-Attiyah in the overall rankings is Laia Sanz who has taken her Astara machine through the first week of the rally with the 17th fastest time of all cars.
“It was a tough couple of marathon days. Overall we’re happy with this week. Yesterday it was a pity we had some fuel consumption problems so we had to slow down. Today our clutch was gone 100k from the end so we’re really lucky to make it.” – Laia Sanz
One place behind Sanz in the overall rankings comes 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel who endured a tough two days behind the wheel of his Audi RS Q e-tron.
“For us, this long stage of 48 hours was really complicated… it was a terrible 48-hour stage.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
Arriving to the Stage Six finish line close to the Shubaytah bivouac with a big smile on his face was Taurus T3 Max driver Mitch Guthrie Jr. The current Challenger class runner-up in the overall rankings appeared to enjoy every minute of the ultra-tough two days of desert racing.
“This was so much fun. Yesterday was amazing, getting the chance to race for 400k over dunes… I love that. Sleeping in the tents last night, hanging out and making our food it really felt like a Dakar stage. Now we’re at the Rest Day in a good position in the overall.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Guthrie Jr.’s mission for the second week in Saudi Arabia is clear… chip away at the 58m49s that separates him from Challenger class leader Eryk Goczal. Also looking to reel in Goczal on the way to Yanbu are Cristina Gutiérrez, Chaleco López and Austin ‘AJ’ Jones who sit third, fourth and fifth overall respectively.
“The Marathon Stage was crazy, yesterday we did around 400k only in the dunes. We really didn’t expect yesterday to be so difficult. This morning we had to manage an issue with the gearbox because we wanted to arrive safely.” – Cristina Gutiérrez
As the pressure grows on the frontrunners during the second week of the rally it remains to be seen if the likes of Rokas Baciuška, Ignacio Casale and Dania Akeel can claim a few podium results on the six stages still to race.
It’s been a determined effort throughout the first week of this Dakar by two-time Bike race champion Toby Price to stay in touch with the leaders. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider has reached the Rest Day with a string of three Top 5 stage results to put himself fifth overall with half of the rally still to go.
“The stage was good. It was full sand so we tried to navigate our way through. I only had one little slip up where I fell off the bike but other than that there was nothing big to worry about.” – Toby Price
Price’s KTM team-mate Kevin Benavides is one place and a 1m33s behind him in the general classification. Both riders are less than half an hour behind current Bike race leader Ricky Brabec’s Honda.
“The 48-hour marathon was a good experience, something new. Yesterday we did 500k in the dunes so it was a tough day. At the camp we got our sleeping bags, tents and military-style ration food. We were all cooking together and we enjoyed ourselves.” – Kevin Benavides
Also still in with a shot of finishing on the overall podium are Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing rider Daniel Sanders and Husqvarna biker Luciano Benavides. This pair sit seventh and eighth respectively in the overall standings.
“This Marathon Stage was pretty crazy. I’m still feeling good on the bike and I’m pushing as much as I can. I’m so happy we have the Rest Day, it’s been a really tough first week.” – Luciano Benavides
Before the 2024 Dakar Rally plots a course for the finish line in Yanbu on January 19, the convoy gets to enjoy a well-deserved Rest Day in Riyadh. Race vehicles will all be given a comprehensive service in the bivouac while competitors will do their best to recharge their batteries. Then it’s back on the road on Sunday, January 14 to commence the remaining 3,714 kilometres that must be navigated before the chequered flag finally comes into view.