Thursday’s Stage 10 of the Dakar Rally brought the competitors to the point where the eventual winners and losers will be decided on the dunes of Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter.
Hitting the front of the overall bike race is 2021 Dakar winner Kevin Benavides. The Argentinian has shown patience throughout the rally so far, but when his chance to attack the lead arrived in the dunes he was quick to seize it. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider now has an overall lead of 1m29 over America’s Husqvarna rider Skyler Howes, despite a scare during Wednesday’s stage.
“I think I did a good job. I attacked before crashing and losing a few minutes, then I went back on the offensive,” said Benavides.
It’s on the two-day Empty Quarter Marathon Stage that we could see a decisive move made in the T3 race. Current T3 category leaders Guillaume De Mevius/François Cazalet had their advantage over second-place crew Austin Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin cut to just 7m48s. The fastest T3 time on Stage 10 belonged to Jones’s fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew of Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz (pictured above).
Sebastien Loeb is driving his seventh edition of the Dakar and arrived in Saudi Arabia this time with full focus on winning the rally. A tough opening week looks to have taken victory out of Loeb’s hands but the BRX Hunter driver has battled back onto the overall podium. Today the nine-time WRC winner claimed the 20th stage win of his Dakar career. Alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin, Loeb is determined to finish this rally as well as he can.
There was a podium finish on today’s stage for Team Audi Sport to celebrate as Mattias Ekstrom/Emil Bergkvist got closer to Loeb than any other car crew. Meanwhile, Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes, co-driver Timo Gottschalk and their Toyota Hilux kept hold of second-place overall on today’s stage.
It was a quiet day for race leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, but he nevertheless still holds an advantage of 1h21m34s in the general classification. There doesn’t seem to be anybody keener to test themself against the dunes of Empty Quarter than the Toyota Hilux T1+ driver, supported by co-driver Mathieu Baumel.
“I didn’t push too hard today, I didn’t want to take risks because the marathon stage is tomorrow,” said Al-Attiyah.
There was no change today at the head of the T4 contest where Rokas Baciuska and co-driver Oriol Vidal of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team lead. 23-year-old Baciuska is being followed closely by 18-year-old Eryk Goczal, just 3m 40s separates the drivers after 10 stages.
Competitors across all categories will be separated from their mechanics from the beginning of Stage 11 until the conclusion of Stage 12, a distance of over 450km/280 miles. Any repairs needed during this time must be done by the competitor themselves. This is the biggest test still to overcome….
Selected Overall Standings after Stage 10
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 36:13:37
2. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:21:34
3. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:37:23
5. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +02:10:56
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 41:45:58
2. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM +07:48
3. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +01:03:42
4. Chaleco Lopez (CHL) CAN-AM +02:44:04
5. Cristina Gutierrez (ESP) CAN-AM +03:14:06
1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU) CAN-AM 43:17:29
2. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +03:40
3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP) CAN-AM +06:47
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM 35:46:06
2. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA +01:29
3. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +02:10