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Dakar 2024 Day 7: Sainz leads, Al-Attiyah out of contention

Dakar 2024 Day 7: Sainz leads, Al-Attiyah out of contention

Dakar 2024 Day 7: Sainz leads, Al-Attiyah out of contention

Audi’s Carlos Sainz led the Dakar Rally on Friday as Sebastien Loeb claimed his second stage win in the Saudi Arabian desert and Nasser Al-Attiyah’s hopes of defending his title disappeared in the dunes.

Spaniard Sainz, a triple Dakar winner, completed the 549km 48-hour Chrono sixth stage with a lead of 20 minutes and 21 seconds over Swedish team mate Mattias Ekstrom with Loeb third and a further nine minutes behind.

“We are happy at the moment…but there is still a long way to go. It´s still very open,” said Sainz, 61, after the loop around Shubaytah in his electric-powered car.

Nine times world rally champion Loeb, driving a Prodrive Hunter for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, won the stage in the kingdom’s Empty Quarter by two minutes from Sainz with Ekstrom third.

The Frenchman, who has yet to take overall victory in the gruelling endurance rally that takes place entirely in Saudi Arabia, also won stage four.

Al-Attiyah, who had been second overall after stage five, suffered steering problems on his Prodrive Hunter after 530km and had to wait for an assistance truck.

The Qatari had already dropped to third in Thursday’s first leg of the marathon stage but fell to 17th at Friday’s close, two hours and 40 minutes off the lead and his hopes dashed of a sixth win and third in a row.

Al-Attiyah playing the team game from now on

“On the last 50 km we broke the steering and we couldn´t do anything to repair it,” he explained. “We waited for our assistance truck to come, we fixed it and then got to the finish. We´ll try to keep going and we´ll see what we can do.

“Now we´ll try to play for the world championship. I will also try to help Seb, to be behind him. At least he can win this Dakar,” Al-Attiyah added.

Saudi Arabia’s home favourite Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who led overall before the Chrono stage, withdrew after crashing on Friday.

Adrien Van Beveren won the stage in the motorcycle category with American Honda team mate Ricky Brabec taking the overall lead from Botswana’s Ross Branch, whose Hero team mate Joan Barreda withdrew.

Czech driver Martin Macik led the truck category by more than an hour while Dutch defending champion Janus van Kasteren lost two-and-a-half hours with mechanical troubles.

Saudi Arabia’s Yasir Seaidan took the lead in the SSV category ahead of American Sara Price.

Saturday is a rest day in Riyadh before the final week with the finish in Yanbu on Jan. 19. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)