Red Bull Desert wings roll up their sleeves on marathon stage of Dakar

Matthias Walkner on his KTM of the Red Bull KTM Factory Team races during the 7th stage of the Dakar 2021 between Ha’il and Sakaka, in Saudi Arabia on January 10, 2021.

Everything is still up for grabs as the 2021 Dakar Rally restarted with a monstrous 846-kilometre Marathon Stage. Following the Rest Day its down to the competitors to fix their own machines in the bivouac tonight ahead of the conclusion of the Marathon Stage tomorrow.

18-year-old rookie sensation Seth Quintero has moved up another place in the general classification of the Lightweight Vehicles race thanks to his second place result on the stage. Having made history in the first week by becoming the Dakar’s youngest ever stage winner, the teenager now sits second overall in the Lightweight Vehicles leaderboard.

« There was no dust out front and my co-pilot Dennis (Zenz) did an amazing job. The car ran absolutely flawless and it was a smooth day like we wanted. » – Seth Quintero

Quintero’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Cristina Gutiérrez also enjoyed a trouble-free run on day seven to finish the stage in fifth.

« We did a very clean stage and I needed that. The last days we have had some problems so it was good to have a clean ride. » – Cristina Gutiérrez

Also having a good day in the Lightweight Vehicles race today was Chaleco López who took the stage win. But it was another tough day for Dakar debutant Mattias Ekström.

There’s drama in the car race with race leader Stéphane Peterhansel suffering a big impact with a rock on the route between Ha’il and Sakaka. The 13-time Dakar winner will have to use all his experience to prepare his MINI Buggy overnight for another 375km of racing tomorrow.

« I hit a rock with 40km to go and broke a rim. We spent a long time changing the wheel. » – Stéphane Peterhansel

Ready to pounce is second placed Nasser Al-Attiyah who is less than eight minutes behind Peterhansel in the general classification.

« Everything is going very well and tomorrow we’ll see what we can do. The race is very tight between me and Stéphane. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah

Behind the leaders there is a gap of more than half an hour to Carlos Sainz in third overall. Despite the time difference, the defending champion has not given up hope of retaining his title.

« I’m focused on driving well in this second week and recovering the time lost in the first week. » – Carlos Sainz

After seven stages Kuba Przygoński is fourth overall, matching his best ever finish at the Dakar. The Pole is happy with his rhythm at the start of the second week.

« First day of Marathon Stage was quite tricky. We had camel grass and sand followed by stones. One time we got a puncture but we were happy with our rhythm overall. » – Kuba Przygoński

A seventh place finish on stage seven is Cyril Despres’ best result of the rally so far. The five-time winner of the bike race and co-driver Mike Horn were all smiles at the finish line today.

« We took care of car today so there’s no problem there. No punctures and no other problems. Now we have a better understanding of the tyre pressure we need to use. » – Cyril Despres

The news was not so good for 2009 Dakar Rally winner Giniel de Villiers as he ran into further tyre trouble.

« We ran out of tyres unfortunately. So far at this Dakar we have had 13 punctures. » – Giniel de Villiers

It was another long day in the desert for nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb compounded by a broken wheel hub 30km from the end of the stage which still didn’t prevent him from bringing his Hunter BRX to the finish line.

Two-time Dakar winner Toby Price may have lost his overall lead on the first half of the Marathon Stage, but he’s confident he can get back on top soon. After all, new leader Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo only has a one second advantage over Price.

« We’ve got a little bit of an issue, but other than that everything’s all good. » – Toby Price

Price’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate Sam Sunderland is now third overall, himself just a couple of minutes back from Cornejo Florimo.

« It’s really difficult to know where the other guys are so you’re just pushing and pushing. I just concentrated on keeping a good rhythm and not making any mistakes. » – Sam Sunderland

It was another Top 10 result for rookie Daniel Sanders, despite a nasty fall in the dunes.

« There was this one rock in a sand dune which I hit with my front wheel. That threw me head first straight onto the dune. I was a bit wounded and Ricky (Brabec) stopped to make sure I was alright. » – Daniel Sanders

Elsewhere in the bike race, Štefan Svitko, Matthias Walkner, Laia Sanz and Camille Chapelière all arrived to the midway point of the Marathon Stage.

« The first 100km of the stage reminded me of racing in the Netherlands, sandy with little bumps. » – Matthias Walkner

Things are looking very settled in the truck race with a 1-2-3 result on the stage for Team Kamaz Master reflecting their dominance of the overall rankings. A fifth stage win of the 2021 Dakar keeps race leader Dmitry Sotnikov in complete control of the category.

Tomorrow we’ll find out whose mechanical skills have been put to the test overnight and which competitors can make time on the 375 kilometres that remain of the Marathon Stage.

STAGE SEVEN RESULTS & OVERALLS
CARS
Stage Seven Top 5
1. Y. Al Rajhi (SAU) – Toyota, 04:21:59
2. S. Peterhansel (FRA) – Mini, +00:00:48
3. C. Sainz (ESP) – Mini, +00:01:15
4. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) – Toyota, +00:02:48
5. J. Przygonski (POL) – Toyota, +00:12:00…

Overall Top 5
1. S. Peterhansel (FRA) – Mini, 26:36:50
2. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) – Toyota, +00:07:53
3. C. Sainz (ESP) – Mini, +00:41:06
4. J. Przygonski (POL) – Toyota, +01:22:48
5. N.Roma (ESP) – BRX Prodrive, +01:59:00…

BIKES
Stage Seven Top 5
1. R. Brabec (USA) – Honda, 04:37:44
2. JI. Cornejo (CHL) – Honda, +00:02:07
3. S. Howes (USA) – KTM, +00:02:19
4. S. Sunderland (GBR) – KTM, +00:02:52
5. D. Sanders (AUS) – KTM, +00:03:14…

Overall Top 5
1. JI. Cornejo (CHL) – Honda, 28:51:31
2. T. Price (AUS) – KTM, +00:00:01
3. S. Sunderland (GBR) – KTM, +00:02:11
4. X. De Soultrait (FRA) – Husqvarna, +00:02:34
5. K. Benavides (ARG) – Honda, +00:07:29…

LIGHTWEIGHT VEHICLES
Stage Seven Top 5
1. F. Lopez (CHL) – CAN-AM, 05:15:34
2. S. Alasaif (SAU) – CAN-AM, +00:05:12
3. R. Varela (BRA) – CAN-AM, +00:07:13
4. M. Goczal (POL) – CAN-AM, +00:07:47
5. C. Gutierrez (ESP) – OT3, +00:10:07…

Overall Top 5
1. A. Domzala (POL) – CAN-AM, 32:30:33
2. S. Quintero (USA) – OT3, +00:08:41
3. A. Jones (USA) – CAN-AM, +00:09:31
4. F. Lopez (CHL) – CAN-AM, +00:25:21
5. M. Goczal (POL) – CAN-AM, +00:34:07…

TRUCKS
Stage Seven Top 5
1. D. Sotnikov (RUS) – KAMAZ, 04:45:52
2. A. Mardeev (RUS) – KAMAZ, +00:03:23
3. A. Shibalov (RUS) – KAMAZ, +00:08:22
4. A. Vishneuski (BLR) – MAZ, +00:10:29
5. A. Karginov (RUS) – KAMAZ, +00:11:44…

Overall Top 5
1. D. Sotnikov (RUS) – KAMAZ, 29:12:10
2. A. Shibalov (RUS) – KAMAZ, +00:45:56
3. A. Mardeev (RUS) – KAMAZ, +01:05:06
4. A. Loprais (CZE) – PRAGA, +01:21:47
5. M. Macik (CZE) – IVECO, +01:42:01

QUOTES
Seth Quintero: « We went out there with a smooth pace today knowing that it was the Marathon Stage. We ended up getting passed by a couple of the cars behind us pretty early. Then after the fuel stop we got back in front of them. Then we opened the way for the rest of the stage. There was no dust out front and my co-pilot Dennis (Zenz) did an amazing job. The car ran absolutely flawless and it was a smooth day like we wanted. »

Cristina Gutiérrez: « The first part of the stage was slow because there was a lot of soft sand. It was hard for us because we have a lot of weight now with the spare parts we are carrying. We did a very clean stage and I needed that. The last days we have had some problems so it was good to have a clean ride. »

Carlos Sainz: « We got a puncture and we had to come back to find the way at one point, but we didn’t do too bad. I’m focused on driving well in this second week and recovery the time lost in the first week. »

Nasser Al-Attiyah: « After the Rest Day we are straight into the Marathon Stage and that’s not easy. We had one flat tyre and after this we knew we really had to take care of the car. Everything is going very well and tomorrow we’ll see what we can do. The race is very tight between me and Stéphane. »

Stéphane Peterhansel: « I hit a rock with 40km to go and broke a rim. We spent a long time changing the wheel, it was quite hard. It’s a pity because we were going quite fast at the intermediate time checks and we could have put more time into our rivals today, but we let the opportunity slip away. »

Kuba Przygoński: « First day of Marathon Stage was quite tricky. We had camel grass and sand followed by stones. One time we got a puncture but we were happy with our rhythm overall. The car looks OK and this is important for the marathon. »

Cyril Despres: « Today we found a good rhythm and honestly we can be pleased with our result. We are coming! We took care of car today so there’s no problem there. No punctures and no other problems. Now we have a better understanding of the tyre pressure we need to use. »

Giniel de Villiers: « We ran out of tyres unfortunately. So far at this Dakar we have had 13 punctures. We were lucky that someone stopped to give us a tyre. Then we had to take it very easy for the last 100km. »

Toby Price: « We’ve got a little bit of an issue, but other than that everything’s all good. We just tried to manage the stage as best we could and we’ve finished in a pretty good position. No crashes or injuries on the stage so I can’t complain. »

Sam Sunderland: « It was another really hectic day and a long stage. It’s really difficult to know where the other guys are so you’re just pushing and pushing. You don’t see anybody for three hours. I just concentrated on keeping a good rhythm and not make any mistakes. The bike’s working really well and I’m happy to be here racing. »

Daniel Sanders: « I was having a pretty good day until the last 100km. I was leading out Brabec and Barreda and heading up a dune. There was this one rock in the sand dune somewhere which I hit with my front wheel. That threw me head first straight onto the dune. I was a bit wounded and Ricky stopped to make sure I was alright. I bent the front wheel and the bars a little. Tonight I’ll have to straighten up the spokes and a few little things. »

Matthias Walkner: « It was a really tough day, especially in the morning. We had 220km of liaison in the cold and wet. The first 100km of the stage reminded me of racing in the Netherlands, sandy with little bumps. Then after that came a faster section with big stones in sand so you had to be careful. It was a very physical stage. »

Laia Sanz: « I struggled today with a pain in wrist and feeling tired. It was not a good day, but I’m happy to be here at the end. The second week is going to be hard for me but I will try to arrive to the finish. »

Christine Fial,

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