Red Bull: The starting pistol cracks for Stage 7 and the second of week of Dakar Rally

The 2022 Dakar Rally put the Rest Day behind it and reentered the desert for Stage 7. The first thing to greet the convoy this morning was a chain of sand dunes measuring 100km, and that was just a quarter of the 400km timed special stage.

Nobody was in a bigger rush to reach the Al Dawadimi bivouac than Sébastien Loeb (FRA). The Frenchman took his second stage win of the rally to climb to second overall in the general classification. Today’s victory in his BRX Hunter is Loeb’s 16th stage win at the Dakar.

« Only half of the rally is done so we’ll keeping pushing. I’ll keep doing my best on each stage and we’ll see what this gets us. » – Sébastien Loeb

Loeb seems set on doing all he can to make life as uncomfortable as possible for race leader Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) in the second week of the Dakar. However, Al-Attiyah is a cool customer even under the glare of the desert sun. The Toyota Hilux T1+ driver still leads Loeb by 45 minutes despite conceding over five minutes today.

« I’m not following any strategy. If we’re in a position to win a special, we won’t let it slip away, but our priority is to give it our all day after day and hope that it will pay off at the end of the Dakar. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah

Week two of the Dakar started much better for Audi Sport compared with last week. Back then all three of their Audi RS Q e-trons were well off the pace on Stage 1. Today’s stage was a different story with Carlos Sainz (ESP) setting the day’s third fastest time and team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) just one place further back. The third Audi driver Mattias Ekström (SWE) also came home in the Top 10 on the stage, placing eighth today.

« We went much faster in the second part and finished fourth. It’s a good restart after the rest day. » – Stéphane Peterhansel

We could be witnessing history in the making in the T3 category courtesy of the winning streak being put together by Seth Quintero (USA). Another stage win by the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver makes it a total of seven stage wins at this Dakar. The current stage win record for a single edition of the rally stands at 10 and that was set when the Dakar ran for 17 stages!

« That was quite a day. We started up front and ended up getting lost quite a few times. We got here to the finish and it looks like we got the win again today. That’s seven wins for us now so we’re keeping pace with the record. » – Seth Quintero

While Chaleco Lopez (CHI) looks on course to win the overall T3 category, the battle for runner-up got a lot more interesting on Stage 7. Third placed Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) was able to make up an hour on second placed Sebastian Eriksson (SWE).

The second week of this Dakar was over before it had begun for GasGas Factory rider Daniel Sanders (AUS). Last year’s best placed rookie was third overall at the Rest Day, but he didn’t make it to the start line of Stage 7. Sanders crashed during the liaison route to the special stage and fractured his left elbow and wrist, bringing his Dakar to a premature end.

Sanders’s GasGas team-mate Sam Sunderland (GBR) was also out of luck on Stage 7. The 2017 Dakar winner lost his overall lead on the stage and now lies fourth overall.

« It was a rough day. First off my team-mate Daniel crashed out on the liaison. Then it was a really difficult stage to open. Rain has washed away so many of the tracks. It’s like a casino out there, you just flip a coin and hope you choose the right path. » – Sam Sunderland

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner (AUS) maintains his spot in second overall, five minutes back from new leader Adrien Van Beveren (FRA).

« Navigation was super tricky, especially one waypoint. It was also a very tiring stage, but we got it done. We have five more long days still to go. » – Matthias Walkner

One of the most significant leaps up the leaderboard on the first day of the second week came from Walkner’s KTM team-mate Kevin Benavides (ARG). The reigning champion of the Dakar bike race catapulted himself up to third overall, a mere 10 seconds behind Walkner.

« It was long and very nice stage for me. I started near the back so I could begin to push immediately. We didn’t lose too much time in the tough navigation section. » – Kevin Benavides

Things are tightening up in the truck race with the three leading Team Kamaz Master drivers all bunching up at the top the rankings. Stage winner Anton Shibalov (RUS) is still third overall but closer to the lead than he was on the Rest Day. Second place on the stage keeps Eduard Nikolaev (RUS) in second overall, now just five minutes behind race leader and team-mate Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS).

Tomorrow’s Stage 8 brings with it a timed special stage of 394km and over half of that distance will be raced over sand dunes. There’s plenty of scope for leaderboards across all categories to be shaken up on the race route between Al Dawadimi and Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

2022 Dakar Rally Selected Standings
CAR RACE TOP 5
1. N. Al-Attiyah (QAT) – Toyota, 23:52:22
2. S. Loeb (FRA) – BRX, +44:59
3. Y. Al Rajhi (SAU) – Toyota, +53:31
4. L. Alvarez (ARG) – Toyota, +1:15:09
5. K. Przygonski (POL) – Mini, +1:30:04…

BIKE RACE TOP 5
1. A. Van Beveren (FRA) – Yamaha, 23:45:02
2. M. Walkner (AUT) – KTM, +05:12
3. K. Benavides (ARG) – KTM, +05:23
4. S. Sunderland (GBR) – GAS GAS +05:38
5. L. Santolino (ESP) – Sherco, +06:34…

TRUCK RACE TOP 5
1. D. Sotnikov (RUS) – Kamaz, 26:05:54
2. E. Nikolaev (RUS) – Kamaz, +05:14
3. A. Shibalov (RUS) – Kamaz, +31:25
4. A. Loprais (CZE) – Praga, +1:07:25
5. J. Van Kasteren (NLD) – Iveco, +1:36:51…

LIGHTWEIGHT PROTOTYPE (T3) TOP 5
1. F. Lopez Contardo (CHL) – CAN-AM, 28:17:24
2. S. Eriksson (SWE) – CAN-AM, +1:24:05
3. C. Gutierrez (ESP) – OT3, +2:12:40
4. F. Alvarez (ESP) – CAN-AM, +2:38:19
5. S. Navarro (ESP) – CAN-AM, +4:31:52…

QUOTES
Sébastien Loeb: « Only half of the rally is done so we’ll keeping pushing. We were able to make some time up on Nasser today even though we were forced to slow down at the end. I’ll keep doing my best on each stage and we’ll see what this gets us. »

Nasser Al-Attiayh: « The second week of the Dakar is a different race altogether. We didn’t really try to attack this morning, we left it for later in the stage. I don’t know whether we won the stage, many of our rivals started behind us, so we have to wait to find out. I’m not following any strategy. If we’re in a position to win a special, we won’t let it slip away, but our priority is to give it our all day after day and hope that it will pay off at the end of the Dakar. »

Carlos Sainz: « We got lost three or four times at least. You can be just 30m away from a hidden waypoint and you still don’t catch it. »

Stéphane Peterhansel: « We lost time in first part of the special, first a puncture and then fixing a belt in the dunes. Then we went much faster in the second part and finished fourth. It’s a good restart after the rest day. »

Mattias Ekström: « It was a fantastic morning because we were all alone. There was no dust and we could just run smooth. After that we did end up getting caught in the dust of some cars in front. It’s a shame because the landscape was very nice, but we couldn’t see so well because of the dust. »

Kuba Przygoński: « We couldn’t find the good way today and we ended up losing a lot of time. We’re not happy with how it went for us today. »

Cyril Despres: « It was a real Dakar stage, like the ones we used to have in Africa. We had a small problem with the rear brakes that we had to manage, but it was just a little thing. We could still have fun. »

Giniel De Villiers: « It was really disappointing today. We were going really well until about 130km when one of our main engine oil pipes blew up at the fitting. I had to borrow oil from other competitors, but even then we didn’t have enough in the engine. I had to be really careful. »

Matthias Walkner: « Navigation was super tricky, especially one waypoint. It was also a very tiring stage, but we got it done. We have five more long days still to go. »

Toby Price: « The middle part was where you really had to pay attention to the navigation. We took our time there and just made sure that we got through. »

Kevin Benavides: « It was a long and very nice stage for me. I started near the back so I could begin to push immediately. We didn’t lose too much time in the tough navigation section. »

Sam Sunderland: « It was a rough day. First off my team-mate Daniel crashed out on the liaison. Then it was a really difficult stage to open. Rain has washed away so many of the tracks. It’s like a casino out there, you just flip a coin and hope you choose the right path. »

Mohammad Jaffar: « I had a bad day, it was very difficult for me to finish. I had to miss a waypoint because I was worrying about how much fuel I had left. It was a rough day and I was almost out of Dakar. »

Seth Quintero: « That was quite a day. We started up front and ended up getting lost quite a few times. We got here to the finish and it looks like we got the win again today. That’s seven wins for us now so we’re keeping pace with the record. »

Cristina Gutiérrez: « I think everybody had at least some trouble with navigation today because it was so tricky. Then near the end we had a puncture so that cost us some more time. »

Christine Fial,

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