DAY 13: Stage 10 – January 17, 2024
Route: AlUla > AlUla – Liaison 241km and Special 371km
– With just three stages left at the start of Wednesday, there were plenty of challenges on the loop around the Stage 10 AlUla bivouac with the primary concern for competitors on four wheels – avoiding punctures. Brazilian Lucas Moraes was the best placed of the Ultimate podium challengers in 12th with Frenchman Sébastien Loeb cutting into leader Carlos Sainz’s advantage by seven minutes despite complications while changing his wheels. Loeb, who lies just 13m22s behind the Spaniard with two stages left, said: “We had two punctures. [To change the wheels] we had to climb among the rocks to find a way to be able to lift a rear tyre. I guess we lost about 15 minutes for this.”
– Three-time winner Sainz’s fellow Audi RS Q e-tron teammates may well have earned him a fourth Dakar title as he needed to borrow a spare tyre off Swede Mattias Ekström or he could have ended up waiting hours on the stage for his support truck. Fourteen-time Dakar champion Stéphane Peterhansel underlined the importance of this team support when he said: “We started with two punctures really quickly so this why we were not so fast. At the end Mattias arrived to Carlos because Carlos had three punctures and Mattias gave Carlos one or two wheels. Without these wheels, for sure, Carlos would be waiting a long time for the truck. That’s why it’s good to have three cars in the race.”
– Mitch Guthrie Jr. survived another day with a Challenger class lead as Spaniard Cristina Gutiérrez could only take 32 seconds out of the American as she prepares to take on the 2025 Dakar in the Ultimate category with the duo finishing fifth and sixth respectively and Lithuanian Rokas Baciuška just ahead of them in fourth. Gutiérrez, 32, admitted: “The stage was not very good for us. We had two punctures in the first 200km, so that forced me to slow down a lot.” Guthrie Jr., 27, added: “We started to lose the brakes about 100k from the end. We managed that until the finish line.”
– Australian Daniel Sanders enjoyed a good day on two wheels, finishing just 47 seconds behind American Ricky Brabec who extended his bike lead to 10m54s with Thursday’s Stage 11 back to Yanbu and Friday’s Stage 12 finale left in this 46th edition of the race. Just behind Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing rider Sanders was Argentine Luciano Benavides in sixth, his older brother Kevin Benavides in eighth and Sanders’ compatriot Toby Price rounding out the top 10 on the stage. After finishing fourth in 2021, Sanders, 29, said: “I feel like I nailed a couple of notes that some people missed and maybe that’s helped me to claw back some time. I’m happy to bounce back for once.”
– Thursday’s penultimate Stage 11 sets a timed route of 480 kilometres between AlUla and Yanbu with extreme distance, dangerous rocks and a host of navigation puzzles testing the convoy further.
2024 Dakar Rally overall standings after Stage 10
1. Carlos Sainz (ESP) 41h 35m 12s
2. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) +13m 22s
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) +1h 02m 44s
1. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) 46h 01m 50s
2. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) +28m 03s
3. Francisco López Contardo (CHI) +1h 13m 48s
1. Ricky Brabec (USA) 44h 45m 28s
2. Ross Branch (BWA) +10m 54s
3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) +11m 46s
RECAP THE 2024 DAKAR RALLY FROM THE START BELOW…
DAY 1: Prologue – January 5, 2024
Route: AlUla > AlUla – Liaison 130km and Special 27km
– Sweden’s Mattias Ekström came out hard and fast at the beginning of the 46th Dakar Rally with the Audi RS Q e-tron star and co-driver Emil Bergkvist winning the Ultimate car prologue by an impressive 23 seconds from American category debutant Seth Quintero with Frenchman Sébastien Loeb third 38 seconds behind. Ekström, 45, said: “We had a clean run and I was enjoying driving the car a lot, so I’m very happy.”
– With 5,000km to cover over the 12 days of intense racing, reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was just 1m1s behind Ekström in his Prodrive Hunter rally car debut as he looks to win a sixth Dakar Rally title in a fourth different car. The Qatari, 53, revealed: “It’s a good start. I’m so happy with the performance, the handling was great. We lost some time when we missed one junction, but we still managed to finish strongly.”
– Fighting back from a big recent injury, Australian Daniel Sanders piloted his Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing bike to a prologue second just 12 seconds behind Spaniard Tosha Schareina with Luciano Benavides, teammate Sam Sunderland, Toby Price and Kevin Benavides all inside the top 10. Sanders, who finished fourth overall as a rookie back in 2021, declared: “It was rough with so much traffic in front. I tried to follow the roadbook and just made one mistake near the finish.”
– The Challenger car class looks set to be a fascinating tussle with American Mitch Guthrie Jr. ending the best placed of the leading overall contenders in fifth with three-time Dakar quad winner Ignacio Casale sixth in his Yamaha YXZ 1000R prototype and Guthrie Jr.’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team racer Cristina Gutiérrez an encouraging eighth.
DAY 2: Stage 1 – January 6, 2024
Route: AlUla > Al Henakiyah – Liaison 127km and Special 414km
– Car class rookie Guillaume de Mévius made the dream start to the race proper, as he charged over a rocky Stage 1 to set the day’s fastest time. The young Belgian powered through one of the toughest opening stages in years to beat three-time winner Carlos Sainzby 1m 44s, while South African veteran Giniel De Villiers used all of his experience to finish in third place, 9m 18s behind. Former T3 class stage winner de Mévius said: “I’m quite surprised about the timings. There was a lot of dust and a lot of guys to pass. The key was avoiding punctures and staying calm in the dust.”
– Sainz powered his Audi RS Q e-tron to the day’s podium despite three punctures and Prologue winner Mattias Ekström finished top 10, but other contenders in the Ultimate class were not so lucky. A little further back came a group of five drivers who lost between 20 and 30 minutes to the race leader. Sébastien Loeb, Seth Quintero, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Laia Sanz and Stéphane Peterhansel will all be hopeful a favourable starting position for tomorrow’s 470km stage to Al Duwadimi will help them claw back their early deficit. Quintero, 21, said: “Today was probably the hardest Dakar stage we’ve ever seen in Saudi Arabia. We got a puncture around 35km and that kind of set the tone for our day. I wish everybody that’s still out there all the best. It’s going to be a long night for some.”
– Opening the stage for the entire Dakar convoy was the Bike class and various riders described the rock-riddled special as the toughest opening bike stage that the rally has ever seen. Defending Dakar champion Kevin Benavides kept the early leaders in sight, which was a remarkable achievement considering he’s recovering from a broken tibia sustained just a month ago.
– Also keeping their heads down and getting through the stage as best they could were the Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing pair of Daniel Sanders and Sam Sunderland, who both remain within striking distance of the overall podium, while Husqvarna’s Luciano Benavides and two-time Dakar winner Toby Price will be well placed to attack tomorrow after they finished just outside the Top 10. “It was incredible how many kilometres we did over the stones, the riding was really technical, slow and in places almost impossible,” said the younger Benavides brother.
– One family dominated the Challenger class on Stage 1, with 19-year-old Eryk Goczal leading home his uncle Michal Goczal and father Marek to park their trio of MCE-5 Taurus machines at the top of the early leaderboard. Doing his best to keep pace with the Goczal clan was defending class champion Austin ‘AJ’ Jones. The American brought his Can-Am to the Al Hanakiyah bivouac in fourth place, 10 minutes behind Eryk, while just a few minutes behind Jones came Cristina Gutiérrez and Mitch Guthrie Jr. after they battled through the rocks and dust. A little over 26 minutes back from Eryk Goczal sits Ignacio Casale, the three-time quad race champion.
DAY 3: Stage 2 – January 7, 2024
Route: Al Henakiyah > Al Duwadimi – Liaison 192km and Special 463km
– After a bruising opening stage there were already sizeable time gaps in the Ultimate class ahead of Stage 2, but turning that around was Stéphane Peterhansel. The Audi RS Q e-tron driver powered to his 50th stage win on four wheels (plus a further 33 in the Bike class). He lifted himself up to 13m 16s off the race lead, which is now occupied by team-mate Carlos Sainz. The 61-year-old Spaniard now has a cushion of 1m 51s over local favourite Yazeed Al Rajhi. “It was a much better day than yesterday for us and it was a pleasure to drive. The settings on the car were really good and to take a stage victory is always nice,” said Peterhansel, 58.
– After losing time on Stage 1, it was also a decent day in the desert for Sébastien Loeb as he promoted his Prodrive Hunter to the overall podium after missing out on the stage win by just 30s. The record WRC champion said: “It was a long stage, but very nice for us. I tried to push through. We hesitated a few times with the navigation, but each time we came back to the track quite quickly.” Flying the flag for the next generation are Seth Quintero, 21, and Guillaume de Mévius, 29. Both drivers are making their Ultimate class debut and sit fourth and fifth in the general classification.
– Ominously for the drivers at the front, there was also a significant move made by defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, despite some technical issues with his Prodrive Hunter. Al-Attiyah has lifted himself to seventh overall, grouped in with Mattias Ekström, Lucas Moraes and Peterhansel. All have their eyes fixed on podium places.
– In the Bike class, Luciano Benavides showed the speed that saw him crowned the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship winner in 2023. The Argentinian rode his Husqvarna to second place on the stage to break into the top five overall, just two seconds ahead of Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders. The Australian leads his team-mate Sam Sunderland by less than a minute, while a further 1m 20s behind Sunderland is Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Toby Price.
– Managing to squeeze his way among the Goczal family at the front of the Challenger class on Stage 2 was Mitch Guthrie Jr. The American has been a big part of the development of the MCE-5 Taurus vehicle that currently holds the Top 5 places in the category and finished third today behind 19-year-old Eryk Goczal and his uncle Michal. Eryk’s father Marek was fourth on today’s stage and the Goczal brigade still occupies all three podium spots in the general classification. Then comes Guthrie Jr. , 17m 7s behind the race leader, with the fifth MCE-5 Taurus of Cristina Gutiérrez just a couple of minutes behind. Guthrie Jr., 27, said: “Stage Two was a lot of fun and definitely a lot better than the first one. Today was much faster, but there were still some dunes and also rocky areas.”
DAY 4: Stage 3 – January 8, 2024
Route: Al Duwadimi > Al Salamiya – Liaison 295km and Special 438km
– Another mammoth challenge awaited the convoy on Monday’s Stage 3 with a huge variety of terrain covered on the special stage ahead of the remaining 299km of the Marathon Stage on Tuesday. One person who will not forget today in a hurry is Brazilian Lucas Moraes, who claimed his first Ultimate category stage victory driving the Toyota GR DKR Hilux with co-driver Armand Monleon alongside him. Moraes, 32, said: “It’s an unbelievable feeling and I have to give it up for Armand and the team for the work they’ve done. I dedicate this victory to my daughter who has been in hospital the last four days, but now she’s better. It was very tough for me being away from home but now this win means a lot.”
– The drivers behind Moraes went all out in the race for overall Ultimate positions with three-time winner Carlos Sainz nearly overturning his Audi RS Q e-tron as he finished sixth to put himself just 29 seconds behind early leader Yazeed Al Rajhi, who is excelling on home soil. Spaniard Sainz, 61, revealed: “We had a problem with navigation at the beginning and lost five minutes. Then I was really going fast and reached the dust of Mattias [Ekström]. Then I hit a hole and nearly rolled the car.”
– American Mitch Guthrie Jr. set a blistering pace in his Taurus T3 Max to bank his first Challenger class stage win of the year and cut the gap to Polish leader Eryk Goczal as fast-charging Spaniard Cristina Gutiérrez moved up to fourth overall behind him. Guthrie Jr., 27, declared: “We were pushing hard with a group of guys at the front of the Challenger class. Our goal for this rally is to have clean days and this was another one.”
– Argentine Kevin Benavides was the class act on two wheels as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider finished one minute and 11 seconds ahead of American Ricky Brabec as teammate Toby Price edged a top-10 finish in ninth. Benavides now climbs above the Australian into sixth overall with Daniel Sanders eighth and Luciano Benavides ninth as Sam Sunderland suffered from mechanical problems. Defending champion Kevin, who broke a bone in his leg training just one month ago, said: “I started very focused on my navigation. It was a long stage and I worked hard all day.”
DAY 5: Stage 4 – January 9, 2024
Route: Al Salamiya > Al-Hofuf – Liaison 332km and Special 299km
– Birthday boy Kevin Benavides put together an impressive performance for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team as he piloted his bike to third place on Tuesday, so he could blow out the candles on his 35th birthday cake placed fourth overall – 20 minutes and 39 seconds behind Chilean leader Jose Ignacio Cornejo. The Argentine said: “The stage was really fast with lots of navigation, so I was really focused on my roadbook. At the refuelling, I saw I had a big cut in my rear tyre, so that was a little bit scary. I took care of the problem and finally arrived at the finish.”
– Kevin’s brother Luciano lies sixth overall, 31 minutes 11 seconds back, after he finished sixth as he looks to build on his three stage wins from last year’s race, however, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Toby Price and Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing’s Daniel Sanders will be looking for a change in fortune tomorrow. Sanders, 29, said: “We struggled a lot with the navigation as well as staying on the pace. At the refuel I lost my rear fuel tank cap, so there was fuel leaking all over the back of my legs.”
– The Prodrive Hunter duo of Sébastien Loeb and reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah were the big Ultimate movers on Stage 4 as the convoy was faced with tricky navigation obstacles. Frenchman Loeb claimed his 24th Dakar stage win to move sixth overall as Qatari Al-Attiyah avoided his recent puncture problems to climb even higher into third. Nine-time WRC champion Loeb, 49, said: “We were a bit in the dust because we started far from the front and had to overtake a lot of cars. Except from this and going back to get one waypoint, it was a very good stage.”
– In the Challenger class, American Mitch Guthrie Jr. produced a storming stage display to keep pace with Polish leader Eryk Goczal only to be hit with a 17-minute time penalty for a combination of a missed waypoint and excessive speed. Despite that, the 27-year-old was bullish about his chances after finishing 36m 23s back overall in his Taurus T3 Max. He said: “It had a little bit of everything, but the main thing was full speed. The navigation section in the middle got us a little, but other than that, it was a clean stage. So far we’re hitting our goal of good finishes every single day.”
DAY 6: Stage 5 – January 10, 2024
Route: Al-Hofuf > Shubaytah – Liaison 527km and Special 118km
– Defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah has moved up the overall Ultimate classification this week now that he has adapted to his Prodrive Hunter car and he banked his first Dakar stage win in the new vehicle on Wednesday after he broke clear to win by nearly two minutes. The Qatari was the class act by the end of the 118km chain of special stage dunes following a monstrous liaison section above 500km. The 53-year-old, who lies nine minutes and three seconds behind Saudi home leader Yazeed Al Rahji, said: “Today I knew I needed to win the stage. Tomorrow is 600 kilometres and I don’t care if I open. Maybe I will lose some time, but the important thing is to finish the long stage that’s coming.”
– Ahead of Thursday’s new 48-hour Chrono Stage, Spanish legend Carlos Sainz, France’s Sébastien Loeb and Spain’s Laia Sanz slowed down to ensure a favourable starting position for tomorrow as there will be no bike tracks to follow due to FIA and FIM entrants following separate courses. Sainz finished behind the likes of Guillaume De Mevius, Giniel De Villiers and Mattias Ekström, but only trails Al Rajhi by 11 minutes and 31 seconds overall. The 61-year-old veteran revealed: “I think we need to wait two days more until we find out who has the best strategy for the next stage.”
– Multiple Dakar champion Chaleco López also collected his first Challenger stage win of the 46th edition with a storming performance that saw him finish two minutes and four seconds clear of fellow Can-Am driver Austin ‘AJ’ Jones as Polish race leader Eryk Goczal was pushed down into third on the stage. The 48-year-old Chilean, who now sits fourth overall, said: “This was a good day, the first good day for me at this year’s rally. Nothing bad happened to us today so I’m very happy.”
– After struggling early on during this year’s race, Australian duo Toby Price and Daniel Sanders came home third and fourth respectively to eat into Botswanan Ross Branch’s overall lead. With Argentine Luciano Benavides escaping a scary finish elsewhere, which saw his engine repeatedly cutting out, Price said: “The stage was quite tricky, there were a lot of drops in there. We got through at a decent pace. I missed a couple of the drops and that got the heart rate up a little bit.”
DAY 7: Stage 6 – January 11, 2024
Route: Shubaytah > Shubaytah – Liaison 209km and Special 626km
– Thursday’s leg of the all-new 48-hour Chrono Stage has already mixed up the order in the Ultimate category as Spanish legend Carlos Sainz went on the attack over the 250-metre-high dunes of the Empty Quarter desert. The three-time Dakar winner eased off yesterday to give himself a good starting position today and it worked a treat as he passed main rival Nasser Al-Attiyah – who had opened the stage – and also claimed the overall lead after Saudi driver Yazeed Al Rajhi barrel rolled on the dunes.
– After equalling Ari Vatanen’s record of 50 Dakar car stage wins earlier in the week, Sainz’s fellow Team Audi Sport driver Stéphane Peterhansel did not enjoy the same fortune as the 14-time champion suffered severe mechanical trouble in his Audi RS Q e-tron at 225km and is now out of the running. The 58-year-old Frenchman said: “We had a puncture and the hydraulic jack system started playing up. We don’t have a hand jack, so we don’t know how we’re going to change the wheel. I’ve lost the power steering and I don’t know how we’re going to manage to pull through.”
– Despite the setback of a 17-minute time penalty, American charger Mitch Guthrie Jr. continues to take the fight to Challenger class leader Eryk Goczal with the Taurus T3 Max duo one and two for most of Stage Six’s opening day. Also still in the hunt for an overall podium spot in the Challenger class are Spanish racer Cristina Gutiérrez, American Austin Jones and multiple Dakar title winner Chaleco López.
– Bike quartet Kevin Benavides, Toby Price, Daniel Sanders and Luciano Benavides managed to stay in touch with the trio of Honda bikers ahead of them plus Ross Branch as Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla suffered a big-time loss after running out of fuel 10km before the refuelling point.
– Tonight competitors will camp out in the desert before Stage Six draws to a close on Friday with the remaining convoy out to complete what remains of the timed special stage ahead of the much-needed Rest Day.
DAY 8: Stage 6 – January 12, 2024
Route: Shubaytah > Shubaytah – Liaison 209km and Special 626km
– 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. The 61-year-old got his tactics spot on when 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.
– 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.
– The shocking news on day two of the Chrono Stage was the massive time losses of defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah. 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.
– Mitch Guthrie Jr.’s mission for the second week in Saudi Arabia is clear… chip away at the time 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.
– 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. Meanwhile, Price’s KTM team-mate Kevin Benavides is one place and 1m 33s behind him in the general classification. Both riders are less than half an hour behind current Bike race leader Ricky Brabec’s Honda.
DAY 9: Rest Day – January 13, 2024
Location: Riyadh – 0km
– Day 9 marks the Rest Day in the 46th edition of the Dakar Rally, with participants staying in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, following the demanding 48H Chrono stage.
DAY 10: Stage 7 – January 14, 2024
Route: Riyadh > Al Duwadimi – Liaison 390km and Special 483km
– American Mitch Guthrie Jr. consolidated his place at the top of the Challenger class standings on Sunday when he claimed victory on Stage 7 by five minutes and 38 seconds from Lithuanian rival Rokas Baciuška, who has given himself a shot of reaching the overall podium after a tough start at the 46th Dakar edition. Guthrie Jr., 27, said: “It was nice to have clean air in front of us so me and Kellon (Walch) could finally have some time to navigate… and no dust today. I’m happy to get to the finish.”
– Guthrie Jr.’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Cristina Gutiérrez excelled again with the gap between the two Taurus drivers now at 33m36s with Chaleco López’s Can-Am a further 6m20s behind in third, while defending champion Austin ‘AJ Jones led for most of the stage before an issue at the 427km mark saw the Can-Am driver concede half an hour to the chasing pack back in fourth spot overall.
– In the Ultimate car category, the convoy got straight back to business on a 483-kilometre timed stage which took in a dizzying maze of desert canyons on the route between Riyadh and Al Duwadimi. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb made it back-to-back stage wins and took 10 minutes out of race leader Carlos Sainz, the gap between the two former WRC winners now standing at 19 minutes as Toyota GR DKR Hilux driver Lucas Moraes lies poised in third ready for any mistakes from them. Loeb, 49, said: “We were the first car and the navigation was really tricky, but we didn’t make any big mistakes. We had to make the line for the rest, but sometimes that’s better because you stay really concentrated.”
– Defending bike champion Kevin Benavides took seven minutes out of Ricky Brabec’s overall lead, moving to fifth overall and 21 minutes and 39 seconds off top spot for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing as younger brother Luciano finished second on the day behind Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo Florimo. The Argentine, 35, said: “It was a tough stage. A lot of navigation over camel grass and stoney ground. I did good work with Luciano in finding the way. We need to continue like this until the end.”
DAY 11: Stage 8 – January 15, 2024
Route: Al Duwadimi > Ha’il – Liaison 220km and Special 458km
– It was another good day for the Benavides brothers on Monday as two-time bike winner Kevin set the fastest time and younger brother – by six-and-a-half years – Luciano finished second just 31 seconds behind. It didn’t elevate him in the overall standings, however Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Kevin is now 20m 31s back from American leader Ricky Brabec. Kevin, 35, said: “I feel good and I enjoyed my ride. The last part was fun. I did some good work and now we need to continue pushing.”
– Over in the Ultimate car category, leader Carlos Sainz managed to put a further five minutes into his nearest rival Sébastien Loeb overall with the Spaniard fourth over the 458km special distance as fellow Audi RS Q e-tron drivers Mattias Ekström and Stéphane Peterhansel finished in first and second respectively. Sainz, 61, said: “I think there’s still a long way for me and there are long stages to come. You can see how easy it is to lose five or 10 minutes on this race. It’s very stressful.”
– Brazilian Lucas Moraes of Toyota Gazoo Racing retained third overall as he looks to repeat his 2023 podium finish with Ultimate rookie Guillaume de Mévius half an hour behind in fourth overall and 2009 Dakar champion Giniel de Villiers of South Africa a further 10 minutes back in fifth. Moraes, 32, said: “It’s a great feeling to be riding with these legends here and we’ve got to keep fighting.” De Mévius, 29, added: “We had no problems with the car, no punctures and no navigation issues.”
– American leader Mitch Guthrie Jr. finished second on Stage Eight to marginally extend his lead over Spanish racer Cristina Gutiérrez to 34m 03s with every second valuable over the four remaining stages this week. The Taurus T3 Max driver, 27, said: “Now that we’re leading the overall the goal is to get to the finish line clean every day. It’s tough because you’re not quite sure how fast to go.” After winning two T3 stages last year, Gutiérrez added: “The most important thing is to be consistent and not make mistakes on the four stages that are still to come. We will try to go as fast as we can.”
DAY 12: Stage 9 – January 16, 2024
Route: Al Duwadimi > AlUla – Liaison 222km and Special 417km
– The overall leaders were faced with navigation riddles on Tuesday’s Stage Nine, however they defended their positions over the 417-kilometre timed special stage between Ha’il and AlUla through a host of hidden waypoints that made it difficult to keep things on track. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb was back on the power in his Prodrive Hunter and took a total of 4m14s out of Ultimate car leader Carlos Sainz, despite suffering his fair share of misfortune. Loeb, 49, said: “We had two punctures in the middle, so at the end I had to be a bit careful not to have a third one.”
– Elsewhere, the three Audi RS Q e-trons of Sainz, 14-time Dakar champion Stéphane Peterhansel and Sweden’s Mattias Ekström stuck together so they can lend the Spaniard assistance as he holds a 20m33s lead. Three-time winner Sainz, 61, revealed: “I’m happy with the stage, keeping in mind that I opened quite a lot. At the end it was very stressful inside the car when the navigation was very difficult. We rode as three cars together today and that was good. I knew I had some support behind me.”
– Challenger leader Mitch Guthrie Jr. is so far nailing the right balance between protecting his advantage and maintaining crucial race rhythm. The American’s overall cushion was only slightly reduced to 28m35s from Spaniard Cristina Gutiérrez, also driving a Taurus T3 Max, who was fourth today. Bullish Gutiérrez, 32, said: “It was a hard day with a lot of navigation and a lot of rocks. Chaleco (López) is pushing hard from the back. I’m happy because we could take some minutes from Mitch (Guthrie Jr.). The car is working perfectly and we still have three days to go.”
– Australian Toby Price finished fourth in the bike category today and the two-time Dakar champion still remains hopeful of edging his way on to the podium despite lying 35m12s back from American leader Ricky Brabec with his fellow Hondas of Ross Branch and Adrien Van Beveren close behind. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Price, 36, said: “I made one little mistake at one waypoint and lost a bit of ground. Glad to to be through it in one piece. It was really hard to see the stones in the sun.”
Discover the top 10 moments of the first week of the 2024 Dakar Rally HERE.