Day 7

Loeb takes Dakar Day 7, Attiyah still in control as Flormino wins dramatic bikes

Sunday’s Dakar Rally Day 7 proved a dogfight in the desert. Sebastien Loeb and Nasser Al Attiyah escaped a multi-car dice to see second man Loeb took the day. And more than five minutes out of Attiyah’s overall lead. It was a dramatic day in the bikes. Third overall Sam Sunderland crashed out of the race in route to the day’s racing stage and the other two top men overall were delayed. To see Jose Florimo take the day and Yamaha’s Adrien van Beveren to move into the rally lead.

A car dogfight developed in front

The 402 km race from Riyadh to Al Dawadimi commenced with 100 km of dunes before a less technical, but more navigationally challenging maze of winding tracks. It proved something of a dogfight up front. Overall car leaders Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux, and second, third and fourth crews, Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr’s Hilux, Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s BRX Hunter fighting it out in a group at the head of the car bunch.

They were joined by Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings’ Gazoo Hilux, and Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist, Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lukas Cruz’ and Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger’s petrol-electric Audi RS Q e-Trons. All of the above were initially in or about the top three in an epic battle that raged for most of the morning. But de Villiers hit trouble and lost 50 minutes and Lategan 40 as he stopped to help his stricken teammate. While Loeb stormed ahead, as he opened his lead up over the pursuing Al Attiyah up front.

Loeb duly took the day by 5 minutes from Attiyah, Sainz, Peterhansel, Al Rajhi and Bernhard Ten Brinke’s Hilux. Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen’s Hilux and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century both had good days. They once again kept South African hopes alive in a provisional 12th and 13th. Century trio Chris Visser and Rodney Burke were provisionally 26th. Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne 40th and Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren 53rd. SA navigators Taye Perry was 26th and Ryan Bland 43rd.

Loeb sliced Lead Deficit by five minutes

All of which saw Loeb slice his deficit to Al Attiyah to three-quarters of an hour overall. Al Rajhi is handily placed 9 minutes adrift in third. Jakub Przygonski’s Mini, Orlando Terranova’s Hunter, Vladimir Vasiliyev’s BMW and Martin Prokop’s Ford are fighting over eighth. With de Villiers looming large in ninth. Visser is 16th, Variyawa 17th and Baragwanath 18th.

There was huge drama before the bike stage even started. Third rider overall and the winner of stages 1 and 6, Daniel Sanders crashed out in the open section en route to the start. The Aussie injured his left arm and was taken to hospital. That left overall leader, Brit Sam Sunderland to defend Gas Gas honour alone. The team’s two riders had led Dakar 2022 for most of the way through the first week.

Sanders joins Husqvarna star Skyler Howes’ in retirement. There was good news for SA fans. Botswana hero Ross Branch took his joker to return to Dakar aboard his Yamaha on Sunday. He had crashed out in Friday’s truncated bike stage. Like MotoGP refugee Danilo Petrucci, who’s KTM Branch followed home in second on Thursday, Ross rejoins and can still qualify for world rally raid championship points handed to the top five in each discipline at the Dakar, for the first time this year.

Drama all-round on two wheels

Aussie Toby Price led early on before he and teammate Walkner faded. So Chilean Jose Ignacio Conrejo Florimo led the way to win for Honda from reigning champion Kevin Benavides’ KTM, Honda teammate, Joan Barreda Bort nursing a shoulder injury, Benavides’ brother Luciano, Lorenzo Santolino’s Sherco and Joaqim Rodriguez’ Hero. Ross Branch ran fifth early in before dropping down the order and fighting back to 13th. SA lads, Bradley Cox’s KTM was 20th and second in rookie Moto 2, and Aron Mare’s Hero 22nd.

Dakar rookies, SA man Charan Moore provisionally ended 40th, Botswana rider John Kelly 56th and SA’s Stuart Gregory 86th and Werner Kennedy 97th. All four are racing in the Original class, without back-up crew and must service their machines themselves. Moore and Kelly, who topped Friday’s ‘Malle Moto’ podium, were fourth and 8th in class on Sunday, Gregory 19th and Kennedy 22nd. Moore sat third overall behind Lithuanian Arunas Gelažninkas in Malle Moto, Kelly 6th. Gregory 13th and Kennedy 24th Sunday evening.

Swaziland’s Walter Terblanche was 100th on Sunday, Mozambican Paulo Oliveira 115th. Overall, it’s all change up front, where Adrian van Beveren, who ended 10th on Sunday, moved into a 5 minute overall lead over KTM man Mattias Walkner, who ended a troubled 24th on the day. Kevin Benavides sat third from former leader Sunderland’s Gas Gas, Santolino, Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda, teammate Barreda and Stefan Svitko’s private KTM in 7th. All of them are within ten minutes of the lead.

A Quad Surprise too

Brazilian Marcelo Medeiros surprised with a quad win over leaders Alex Giroud and Pablo Copetti. Overall truck leader Sotnikov lost time early on, leaving Kamaz teammates Shibalov and Nikolaiev to fend off van der Brink’s Iveco at mid distance. Seth Quinterio led Red Bull teammate Christina Gutierrez and overall leader Francisco Contardo’s Can Am in the Lightweights. Austin Jones was ahead and into the overall Side by Side lead from Marek Goczal. With overnight leader Rodrigo de Oliveira in trouble.

Monday’s 395 km 8th stage run across wildly changing terrain from Al Dawadimi to Wadi Ad Dawasir. It continues the 2-week 4,000 km race across the Arabian Desert to the finish in Jeddah.

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