The second stage of the 2024 Dakar Rally witnessed a fearsome fightback from some truly legendary desert racers. 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel powered to a stage victory while his Audi team-mate Carlos Sainz parked himself in the overall lead of the Ultimate class. Solid evidence that the established order are in no mood to hand over glory to a new generation of rivals! There was also plenty of movement on the leaderboards of both the Challenger and Bike categories as well as after a mammoth 470 kilometres of racing between Al Hanakiyah and Al Duwadimi.
The story of Stage Two: Wounded beasts attack
After a bruising opening stage there were already sizeable gaps appearing on the leaderboard of the Ultimate class ahead of Stage Two. Taking exception to this turn of events was the most successful competitor the rally has ever known, Stéphane Peterhansel, Monsieur Dakar himself. The Audi RS Q e-tron driver’s 50th stage win on four wheels (plus a further 33 career stage wins in the Bike class) is just another slice of Dakar history for the Frenchman as he lifted himself to 13m16s off the race lead.
« It’s a much better day than yesterday for us… it was a pleasure to drive. The settings on the car were really good and to take a stage victory is always nice. » – Stéphane Peterhansel
While Peterhansel took the stage win it was his fellow Team Audi Sport driver Carlos Sainz who rose to the top of the general classification. El Matador Sainz is chasing a fourth Dakar title and now has a cushion of 1m51s from local favourite Yazeed Al Rajhi in second place. 61-year-old Sainz is clearly determined to make nothing easy for the younger generation of racers out to taste Dakar glory themselves.
« Of course the young drivers in the race can challenge us. They’re good drivers, with good teams and good cars. » – Carlos Sainz
It was also a decent day in the desert for Sébastien Loeb as he promoted himself and his Prodrive Hunter to the overall podium after missing out on the stage win by just 30s.
« It was a long stage, 470k, but very nice for us. I tried to push throughout. We hesitated a few times with the navigation but each time we came back to the track quite quickly. » – Sébastien Loeb
Flying the flag for the next generation of sand racing specialists are 21-year-old Seth Quintero and 29-year-old Guillaume de Mévius. Both drivers are making their debut in the Ultimate class and after two stages they are fourth and fifth respectively in the general classification.
Rather 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 own Prodrive Hunter. Al-Attiyah has lifted himself to seventh overall, grouped in with Mattias Ekström, Lucas Moraes as well as Peterhansel and all with a clear sight of podium places.
« We pushed from the beginning but after we broke the rear steering arm we had to stop for ten minutes to make repairs. Otherwise the car is nice and I’m enjoying it a lot. » – Nasser Al-Attiyah
There’s also spots in the overall Top 20 for 2009 Dakar winner Giniel de Villiers and highest placed female driver Laia Sanz with 10 stages still to race.
« It was a good day for us, just a pity that we get lost a bit at the end. That cost us some positions. I think we were smart, we pushed where we could and then took it easy over the stones. » – Laia Sanz
In the Bike class Luciano Benavides showed the speed that saw him crowned the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship winner in 2023. The Argentinian rider rode his Husqvarna to second place on the stage to break into the Top 5 overall.
« Today was a much better stage than yesterday. I had a better feeling on the bike, I was faster and we got some dunes. » – Luciano Benavides
Just two seconds back from Luciano in the general classification is Daniel Sanders, the Australian leading his Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing team-mate Sam Sunderland by less than a minute. A further 1m20m behind Sunderland is Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Toby Price.
The Bike race has a habit of remaining tight with short gaps separating the top riders, this was evident last year as Price and Kevin Benavides were just 43 seconds apart at the finish line after 5,000 kilometres of racing. Defending champion Kevin Benavides is just outside the Top 10 after two stages of the 2024 Dakar Rally.
« Today I made some mistakes with navigation so I lost some time. The Dakar is like this, some days things don’t go your way. » – Kevin Benavides
Managing to squeezing his way among the Goczal family at the front of the Challenger class on Stage Two was Mitch Guthrie Jr. The American has been a big part of the development of the Taurus vehicle that current holds the Top 5 places in the category.
Guthrie Jr. finished third on today’s stage behind 19-year-old Eryk Goczal and his uncle Michal. Eryk’s father Marek was fourth on today’s stage. The Goczal brigade still occupy all three podium spots in the general classification of the Challenger class. Then comes Guthrie Jr. in fourth, 17m07s behind race leader Eryk Goczal.
« 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. It was a solid day for us without any issues. » – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
The fifth Taurus machine inside the Top 5 is driven by Cristina Gutiérrez who is just a couple of minutes behind Guthrie Jr. following the opening pair of stages.
« We were enjoying ourselves with Mitch around the dunes at the beginning. Later in the stage we stopped to help one motorbiker because we found him on the ground. » – Cristina Gutiérrez
A little over 30 minutes back from the lead is defending Challenger champion Austin ‘AJ’ Jones as well as three-time Dakar quad bike winner Ignacio Casale. More than an hour from the summit are Rokas Baciuška and Dania Akeel.
Another intense day awaits the convoy tomorrow as a 440-kilometre timed special stage separates the competitors from the next bivouac in Al Salamiya. Following this vast expanse of dunes the team mechanics will have just two hours to work on the race vehicles before the competitors continue to a Marathon Stage bivouac. Expect plenty more twists and turns during the coming days.
OVERALL TOP 5 STANDINGS AFTER STAGE TWO
1. C. Sainz (ESP) – Audi, 08:49:38
2. Y. Al Rajhi (SAU) – Toyota, +01:51
3. S. Loeb (FRA) – Prodrive, +04:17
4. S. Quintero (USA) – Toyota, +07:36
5. G. De Mevius (BEL) – Toyota, +07:44…
1. E. Goczal (POL) – Taurus, 09:39:40
2. Mi. Goczal (POL) – Taurus, +01:19
3. Ma. Goczal (POL) – Taurus, +11:24
4. M. Guthrie (USA) – Taurus, +17:07
5. C. Gutierrez (ESP) – Taurus, +19:16…
1 .R. Branch (BWA) – Hero, 09:49:54
2. J. I. Cornejo (CHI) – Honda, +02:30
3. R. Brabec (USA) – Honda, +06:50
4. P. Quintanilla (CHI) – Honda, +15:31
5. L. Benavides (ARG) – Husqvarna, +17:33…
Carlos Sainz: « Of course the young drivers in the race can challenge us. They are good drivers, with good teams and good cars. Also when you’re not opening the road you have an advantage, but then the next day maybe you have to open. This is how things work at the Dakar. »
Sébastien Loeb: « It was a long stage, 470k, but very nice for us. I tried to push throughout. We hesitated a few times with the navigation but each time we came back to the track quite quickly. »
Seth Quintero: « We arrived behind Seb and we were in his dust. We couldn’t get close enough to get around him so we had to back off. Confidence is growing and I can’t wait to get back out there again tomorrow. »
Guillaume de Mévius: « It was a difficult day for us. We started in front and the first 200k were OK. After that Carlos passed us when we got lost and after that we were in the dust of Carlos. Then we got lost a second time and we also got a puncture. »
Mattias Ekström: « This stage was very nice, it was a lot faster than yesterday and I really enjoyed it. We had one puncture and unfortunately we did one navigation error. Even so we had a lot of fun and the car feels very good to drive. »
Nasser Al-Attiyah: « We pushed from the beginning but after we broke the rear steering arm we had to stop for ten minutes to make repairs. Seb broke the same arm yesterday so we will speak to the team about that tonight. Otherwise the car is nice and I’m enjoying it a lot. »
Lucas Moares: « Another very difficult stage. We managed to catch Zala because of an issue for him, we took six minutes out of him. Then he tried to come back past and we almost collided. Thankfully we made it. »
Stéphane Peterhansel: « It’s a much better day than yesterday for us, the stage was not so complicated today. The track was not so much destroyed and it was a pleasure to drive. The settings on the car were really good and to take a stage victory is always nice. »
Laia Sanz: « It was a good day for us, just a pity that we get lost a bit at the end. That cost us some positions. I think we were smart, we pushed where we could and then took it easy over the stones. »
Luciano Benavides: « Today was a much better stage than yesterday. I had a better feeling on the bike, I was faster and we got some dunes. I enjoyed myself much more today. »
Daniel Sanders: « I wish I rode this setup in yesterday’s stage. It was a lot better and I was a lot more comfortable on the bike. I just made two big mistakes in the navigation and lost a bunch of time on the other guys. That’s a bit of a bummer. »
Sam Sunderland: « Today I felt much better than when we were thrown into the deep end yesterday. I spent a lot of today in the dust so it was pretty scary. I’m happy to have done another day and I’m going keep trying to build up my pace. We’ll keep banging away at it. »
Toby Price: « There were some tricky notes in the roadbook and I made a couple of little mistakes but nothing major. I lost some time to the guys in front but not too much and there’s still a long way to go. »
Kevin Benavides: « Today I made some mistakes with navigation so I lost some time. The Dakar is like this, some days things don’t go your way. Now I will refocus for tomorrow and keep going. »
Mitch Guthrie Jr.: « 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. It was a solid day for us without any issues. »
Cristina Gutiérrez: « We were enjoying ourselves with Mitch around the dunes at the beginning. Later in the stage we stopped to help one motorbiker because we found him on the ground. »
Chaleco López: « The first part of this stage was very complicated for the navigation. We lost time at one of the waypoints. These have been two tough stages for us. »