Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel claimed their first stage victory of the 2023 Dakar Rally, but Sébastien Loeb’s victory chances are all but over after losing more than an hour.
Loeb and navigator Fabian Lurquin started second on the road for the 430km test from the event’s early base at Sea Camp to AlUla but lost around 20 minutes before the halfway point.
Adding insult to injury, the Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter T1+ shipped more time after the 270km marker, eventually ending up in 1h21m down on Al-Attiyah.
In the overall classification, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz continue to lead the rally for Audi, with Al-Attiyah and Baumel now just 2m12s adrift in second place after a late surge to usurp the standout driver of the stage, Overdrive Racing’s Erik van Loon.
Many of the top crews were upstaged on the tricky 430km test and van Loon appeared to benefit greatly from a superior starting position on the road.
Having started 41st on the road, the privateer became embroiled in a lively scrap with team-mates Lionel Baud and Saudi local Yazeed Al Rajhi early on. But both suffered time losses, with Al Rajhi losing the effective rally lead after shipping more than half an hour by the finish.
Following the opening stage of the 45th edition on Sunday, the crews completed the long liaison to the start of the second test, which might well prove to be the most demanding of the opening week.
The stage was peppered by narrow and twisty sections and rocky tracks which presented a number of puncture risks throughout the field.
Proof of that risk came early on as GCK Motorsport’s Guerlain Chicherit was forced to stop in the stage after running out of spare tires on his Hunter T1+. Without team-mates to come to his aid, Chicherit and navigator Alex Winocq attempted repairs on their machine, losing a chunk of time in the process.
Prologue winner Mattias Ekström was another to endure a day of punctures in his Audi RS Q e-tron E2 as he finished nearly 40 minutes down on Al-Attiyah. Ekström, who was penalized 15 minutes in the overall classification for missing a waypoint on stage 1B, said he had been ‘nursing the car home’ to the finish.
“We had too many punctures and then towards the end we were nursing the car,” Ekström explained.
“Then a motorbike crashed in front of us, and we were the first car so we stopped to help. It wasn’t a very fun day but we’re just happy to make it to the end. At one point, we saw all the other guys standing in the stage, so it was a very tough day.”
Running order played a crucial role in the outcome of the stage, with those starting further back reaping the benefits thanks to more favorable road conditions in front of them.
As such, the likes of Baud and Van Loon (who started 74th and 41st respectively) led the way after the first two waypoints, as Loeb languished down in 39th. Sainz didn’t fare much better in 31st but, unlike Loeb, managed to recover some ground to reduce the damage to Al-Attiyah.
Loeb’s day then took an unfortunate turn for the worse as he and Lurquin dropped around 20 minutes before grounding to a halt after the 270km marker.
In the overall standings, Sainz leads Al-Attiyah by 2m12s while Century Factory Racing Team’s Mathieu Serradori lies third, 24m55s in arrears. MD Rally’s Simon Vitse is fourth, under a minute further back, with TGR’s Giniel de Villiers fifth ahead of Al Rajhi.
Brian Baragwanath is next up in seventh, with Martin Prokop eighth in the Ford Raptor RS, while Stéphane Peterhansel was another to lose more than 30 minutes in his Audi and is ninth.
Completing the top 10 is Henk Lategan’s Toyota GR Hilux DKR.
For Loeb, however, it was a day to forget as he trailed Al-Attiyah by a full 1h26.38s at the finish, with BRX team-mate Orlando Terranova also suffering badly on stage two, dropping 1h08m33s after multiple punctures as well as stopping to donate a spare tire to Loeb.
Stage 2 Result (Sea Camp – AlUla)
1 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) 5h00m26s
2 Erik van Loon/Sébastien Delaunay (Overdrive Racing) +14s
3 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Team Audi Sport) +5m05s
4 Mathieu Serradori/Loïc Minaudier (Century Factory Racing Team) +11m29s
5 Lionel Baud/Rémi Boulanger (Overdrive Racing) +13m00s
6 Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +13m12s
7 Simon Vitse/Frédéric Lefebvre (MD Rally) +14m30s
8 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team) +19m15s
9 Juan Cruz Yacopini/Dani Oliveras Carreras (Overdrive Racing) +20m19s
10 Pascal Thomasse/Gérard Dubuy (MD Rallye Sport) +22m34s
1 Sainz/Cruz (Team Audi Sport) +8h34m26s
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2m12s
3 Serradori/Minaudier (Century Factory Racing Team) +24m55s
4 Vitse/Lefebvre (MD Rally) +25m40s
5 De Villiers/Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +26m38s
6 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Dirk von Zitzewitz (Overdrive Racing) +27m59s
7 Brian Baragwanath/Leonard Cremer (Century Factory Racing Team) +32m13s
8 Prokop/Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team) +35m24s
9 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (Team Audi Sport) +36m08s
10 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +39m52s2
Guthrie opens account as Lopez Contardo extends lead in T3
Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA driver Mitch Guthrie secured his first Dakar stage win of the 2023 edition in dramatic fashion in a thrilling end-to-end duel with defending winner Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo.
The Can-Am Factory Racing driver had held a lead of over four minutes but saw his margin cut by over half before the final waypoint as Guthrie and navigator Kellon Walch hit their own purple patch.
The US pairing overcame the deficit by the finish to edge the stage win by just 1m25s, and have moved to within a minute of the final podium position in the overall classification.
Third in the stage and up to second overall is Guthrie’s Red Bull Junior team-mate Seth Quintero who ended up just over seven minutes adrift by the end of the stage. He and navigator Dennis Zenz trail Lopez Contardo by 8m43s, and are 10s clear of GRally’s Guillaume de Mevius, who was fourth fastest.