Overdrive Racing’s Yazeed Al Rajhi stormed to his first stage win of this year’s Dakar Rally, while Stéphane Peterhansel continues to lead the overall classification.
Al Rajhi completed the 281.4-mile Ha’il-Sakaka stage, the first part of the Marathon Stage in which no outside mechanical assistance is permitted, in a time of 4h21m59s to end up 48 seconds quicker than Peterhansel, who had led for the majority of the test before dropping time near the finish with a broken rim, sustained after hitting a rock.
Starting fourth on the road, Peterhansel opened up a three-minute margin over Al Rajhi but lost nearly five minutes ahead of the penultimate waypoint. A strong finish meant that Peterhansel made up almost half of that time loss by the end of the stage, allowing the Frenchman to extend his overall lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah to just under eight minutes.
Al-Attiyah’s normal optimistic humor was put to the test again after suffering a puncture on his Hilux, and the Qatari elected to take it easy for the remainder of the stage.
“Tackling the marathon stage after a rest day wasn’t easy,” said Al-Attiyah.
“We suffered a flat tyre and, from then on, we were extra cautious to avoid breaking things. We’re still close to Stéphane and there’s a long way to go. It’s hard to beat a buggy with a 4×4.”
The seventh stage trekked west towards Sakaka on a mix of soil and sand tracks, with Peterhansel’s X-raid Mini JCW team-mate Sainz the quickest out of the blocks having started first on the road.
Al-Attiyah was the closest driver to the Spaniard after the short 13-mile opening waypoint but slipped back as the stage went on.
From the second waypoint – after 39 miles – Peterhansel assumed the advantage and opened up a three-minute lead over Al Rajhi and over five minutes on Al-Attiyah.
Al Rajhi began to take small increments out of Peterhansel’s stage lead and moved ahead of the Frenchman after Peterhansel dropped time, but a charging final section from Peterhansel ensured the time loss was limited to under a minute by the finish.
Sainz finished the stage third quickest, just over a minute adrift of the Toyota-driving Al Rajhi, while Jakub Przygónski continued to impress with the fifth fastest time behind Al-Attiyah.
The experienced Pole, driving an Overdrive Racing-run Hilux, was comfortably the best of the rest over the course of the stage, and finished 12 minutes down on Al Rajhi and 2m43s clear of Century-driving Yasir Seaidan.
Former biker Cyril Desprès, who is partnered in an Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot 3008DKR by explorer and climate activist Mike Horn, was seventh quickest in Friday’s sixth stage and showed yet more consistency en route to Sakaka to finish 17 minutes behind Al Rajhi.
Less than a minute behind was Seaidan’s team-mate Mathieu Serradori, and then X-raid Team’s Vladimir Vasilyev and Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Nani Roma rounded out the top 10.
Roma, who was ‘surprised’ with the new Prodrive-run Hunter’s reliability in its first Dakar appearance could not quite match the fast time of Friday and finished the stage 22 minutes off the pace.
However, Roma still maintains fifth place overall, 26 minutes clear of Vasilyev’s Mini.
At the end of stage six, event organizer the ASO issued a number of penalties to crews, with Century Racing’s Brian Baragwanath copping 23 minutes and stage five winner Giniel de Villiers 21 minutes.
South African Baragwanath and co-driver Taye Perry endured even more frustration in stage seven, dropping over an hour after the opening waypoint and then another 41 minutes by the third.
His compatriot de Villiers also struggled in the stage and lost 19 minutes by the 218-mile marker.
Alsaif and Gutierrez take SSV stage wins
Black Horse Team’s Saleh Alsaif became the second Saudi Arabian stage winner of the day as he beat Reinaldo Varela to the fastest time in the SSV category.
Alsaif was in control of the stage throughout and headed Varela at the finish by a fraction over two minutes, moving up to seventh overall.
Aron Domzala continues to lead the rally overall, 8m41s clear of the leading T3 Lightweight Protoype of Seth Quintero, and 9m31s ahead of his closest T4 class rival Austin Jones.
Quintero’s Red Bull Off-Road Junior team-mate Cristina Gutierrez took her second T3 stage win of the Dakar and remains second in the overall class standings.
X-raid Team’s Mattias Ekström, alongside co-driver Emil Bergkvist, suffered a suspected engine failure midway through the stage, forcing them to call their assistance truck. X-raid Team’s Mattias Ekström, alongside co-driver Emil Bergkvist, suffered a suspected engine failure midway through the stage, forcing them to call their assistance truck. The Yamaha YX1000R was transported back to the bivouac by the service crew, meaning that Ekström will now aim to finish the rally under the new-for-2021 “Dakar Experience” class.
Stage 7 (Ha’il – Sakaka) result
1 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Overdrive Racing Toyota) 4h21m59s
2 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) +48s
3 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +1m15s
4 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2m48s
5 Jakub Przygónski/Timo Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +12m00s
6 Yasir Seaidan/Alexey Kuzmich (SRT Racing Century) +14m43s
7 Cyril Despres/Mike Horn (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +17m06s
8 Mathieu Serradori/ Fabian Lurquin (SRT Racing Century) +17m53s
9 Vladimir Vasilyev/Dmitro Tsyro (X-raid Mini JCW) +20m59s
10 Nani Roma/Alex Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +22m53s
Overall classification after Stage 7
1 Peterhansel/Boulanger (X-raid Mini JCW) 26h36m50s
2 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +7m53s
3 Sainz/Cruz (X-raid Mini JCW) +41m06s
4 Przygónski/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing Toyota) +1h22m48s
5 Roma/Winocq (Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter) +1h59m00s
6 Vasilyev/Tsyro (X-raid Mini JCW) +2h25m58s
7 Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi/Xavier Panseri (Abu Dhabi Racing Peugeot) +2h35m52s
8 Giniel de Villiers/Alex Haro (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2h59m36s
9 Martin Prokop/Viktor Chytka (Orlen Benzina Team Ford) +2h59m50s
10 Christian Lavieille/Jean-Pierre Garcin (MD Rally Sport Optimus) +3h22m54s