Ekstrom wins Stage 8 at Dakar as overall leader Al-Attiyah falters

Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Ekstrom wins Stage 8 at Dakar as overall leader Al-Attiyah falters

Off Road

Ekstrom wins Stage 8 at Dakar as overall leader Al-Attiyah falters

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Mattias Ekstrom made a late comeback over teammate Stephane Peterhansel to claim Audi’s second stage win of the 2022 Dakar Rally.

The two-time DTM champion was running third and over three minutes behind at the eighth of 10 checkpoints, but managed to claw back over the final 73 kilometers (45.3601 miles) to finish 49 seconds ahead of Peterhansel.

“We had a very good beginning, but then in the dunes I felt I was very careful and even too slow,” Ekstrom said. “I didn’t have any good rhythm at all. After the regrouping, I felt a lot more confident … I had a really, really enjoyable drive and Emil (Bergkvist) did fantastic navigation for the whole stage.

“We didn’t even have one detail that was not perfect, so for me it was a very good day. I don’t know what it’s like to win, it’s not done yet. I guess there are some fast guys behind us arriving as well, but it’s always great when you have success. We are all fighting to have a good result. For Emil and myself, we feel like the rookies here, learning every day and trying to manage the risk and there are so many kilometers where you can have a mistake.

“Today, I’m happy because we didn’t do any, maybe we were too conservative, but there are still many days to go. I think the car is good. I’m also starting to get confident with the set-up. We have found a set-up that I like a lot. But we have to develop the car much more. It’s still a very young car in its lifetime.”

The challenging 395 km (245.442m) stage saw Sebstien Loeb finish third, taking a large chunk of time out of Nasser Al-Attiyah’s overall lead after the three-time Dakar champion finished 11th due to a variety of issues. Al-Attiyah now holds a 37m58s lead over the Frenchman.

“For 350 km we (had) one puncture and then we only had front-wheel drive because we broke the rear,” Al-Attiyah said. “I was really scared all the way. On the last part I said, ‘I don’t care, on the last 50 kilometers I will try to push a little bit’. But it was not easy with just the front-wheel drive. I’m really lucky to be here and we only lost seven minutes to Seb. For the speed, we needed to go slow, but there was a small part broken inside and a lot of noise. That’s what we had to manage all the way, but we are lucky to be here.

“Of course I was scared, because we have done a very good job from the beginning and now if we start to have problems… I think we need to sit down with the team a little bit to see why it happened. It’s a new rear differential, we only added it yesterday. I think there was something wrong with the fitting, but we’ll see now what the mechanic will say. The Dakar is never finished, you know? We’ll try to respect the Dakar. The Dakar is the Dakar”.

Sam Sunderland put in a dominant ride in the bike class, leading at every checkpoint en route to taking the stage win by 2m53s over Pablo Quintanilla. The win puts the Briton and GasGas rider back into the overall lead at 3m45s over Red Bull KTM’s Mattias Walkner.

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren came into the day as the class leader following his victory in the seventh stage. However, a ninth-place finish on Monday pushed him down to third overall, 4m43s behind Sunderland.

Ricky Brabac led the way for the United States with a fourth-place effort in the stage, just ahead of fellow countryman Mason Klein in fifth. Klein is currently placed as the highest American on the overall leaderboard in 10th, 35m26s behind the top spot.

In light prototype, Seth Quintero continued to assert his dominance after sailing to his sixth consecutive stage win. The 19-year-old American isn’t in the hunt for overall class victory due to issues in the second stage keeping him currently more than 16 hours behind. However, if he can win three of the final four stages, he would break the event record of 10 stage wins.

“It was definitely quite the day,” said Quintero. “We got lost quite a few times along with a lot of other people. We started up front with a lot of T1s and had a lot of dust today, unfortunately, but we’re here, we’re at the end of the day, safe, no issues, just a couple of navigational issues, but to be honest it’s not really Dennis’s (Zenz) fault, they just had weird drawings… But we did our best. We’re here at the end of Day 7 and it looks like we’re getting a win today, so that makes seven wins for us, getting closer to that record. If we break that record, I’ll be super stoked to get to 11 wins in a 12-stage Dakar.

“… That record’s not gonna be easy to break, so now we got a little more leeway. Hopefully we don’t need it, but we’re going to go for a few more stage wins to break that record.”

Chile’s Francisco Lopez Contardo finished fourth on the day and holds the overall class lead by 1h19m01s over Sweden’s Sebastian Eriksson.

Dakar Rally standings after Stage 8:

CAR RACE TOP 5

  1. N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT) TOYOTA 27:45:52
  2. S. LOEB (FRA) BRX +37:58
  3. Y. AL RAJHI (SAU) TOYOTA +53:13
  4. K. PRZYGONSKI (POL) MINI +1:28:06
  5. O. TERRANOVA (ARG) BRX +1:31:39

BIKE RACE TOP 5

  1. S. SUNDERLAND (GBR) GAS GAS 27:38:42
  2. M. WALKNER (AUT) KTM +03:45
  3. A. VAN BEVEREN (FRA) YAMAHA +04:43
  4. P. QUINTANILLA (CHL) HONDA +05:30
  5. J. BORREA BORT (ESP) HONDA +14:38

TRUCK RACE TOP 5

  1. D. SOTNIKOV (RUS) KAMAZ 30:02:36
  2. E. NIKOLAEV (RUS) KAMAZ +11:25
  3. A. SHIBALOV (RUS) KAMAZ +40:23
  4. A. LOPRAIS (CZE) PRAGA +1:29:27
  5. A. KARGINOV (RAF) KAMAZ +1:41:01

LIGHTWEIGHT PROTOTYPE (T3) TOP 5

  1. F. LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) CAN-AM 32:51:39
  2. S. ERIKSSON (SWE) CAN-AM +1:19:01 
  3. F. ALVAREZ (ESP) CAN-AM +2:55:30
  4. S. NAVARRO (ESP) FN SPEED +4:50:24
  5. P. LEBEDEV (RAF) MSK 4:51:35

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