Loeb concedes Dakar victory now out of reach

Nasser Al-Attiyah goes to the final two stages of the rally with a 32-minute advantage


Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sébastien Loeb says he ‘cannot do any more’ in his fight for Dakar Rally victory with Nasser Al-Attiyah ahead of the final two stages.

Since the resumption of play after the official rest day, Loeb has managed to take 13m53s on the stages with a further five minutes shaved off due to a penalty for the Toyota driver following stage eight.

Loeb dropped 12 minutes to Al-Attiyah on the opening stage of the rally after suffering two punctures. A broken differential lost the nine-time World Rally Champion a further half an hour on stage three.

Despite beating Al-Attiyah in three of the four stages since the rest day, Loeb believes the deficit to the rally leader is too big to eat into on pace alone.

Sebastien Loeb

“Overall, it was a good day,” Loeb said post-stage.

“We spent a minute and a half hovering around a waypoint, but other than that, it went great. We attacked hard and didn’t have any real problems on the stage.

“The first part of the stage was really fast and then the second part was much more interesting with tracks and real driving so I could make quite a difference at the end of the stage.

“When it’s fast on these stages there’s nothing to do, just flat out maybe lifting off the throttle every 15 kms so there’s nothing more you can do.”

Such was the nature and topography of the Wadi Ad-Dawasir-Bisha stage that no one crew could make their escape on the timing, with stage winner Stéphane Peterhansel just over two minutes clear of Audi team-mate Carlos Sainz.

It is for this reason that Loeb was left feeling helpless in his pursuit of Al-Attiyah.

“In the end, the difference with Nasser was small [1m25s], but that’s normal, we spent the whole stage going flat out and I don’t reckon you can expect to make massive gains in a special like this one.

“What I’ve been saying from the beginning is that I wanted to give it my all every day and see how it worked out.

“In terms of raw performance, even if we go full blast, it is hard to open up a gap, as the Audis are always faster, and we struggle to match their pace.

Nasser Al-Attiyah
We completed the stage without losing too much time, we only conceded a minute to Séb, so we'll start in a decent position tomorrow Nasser Al-Attiyah

“We’re second now, the gap is too big, and the race is no longer in our hands, but we’re still hanging in there.”

While Loeb continues to push until the end, Al-Attiyah and navigator Mathieu Baumel’s strategy out front is more straight-forward.

“We completed the stage without losing too much time, we only conceded a minute to Séb, so we’ll start in a decent position tomorrow,” Al-Attiyah said.

“We had no punctures today; the car was just perfect, and Mathieu navigated well. We’re getting there, little by little.

“I said I didn’t want to take risks; I simply want to set a high pace. Finishing one minute down on Séb in a stage like today or yesterday’s is great.”


Although much can still happen on the remaining two stages, Al-Attiyah says his focus is purely on securing the game and not taking any unnecessary risks.

“It’s not over yet,” he added. “There are still two days to go and even a podium spot will be hard to get.

“We’ve been thinking of victory since day one. We’re not here to win stages. Last year we took seven and finished second, this time round we’ve only claimed two and we’re in the lead.”

The penultimate stage is a 214-mile loop around Bisha which is tipped to be the most technically demanding test of the Dakar. Nearly half of the stage will take place in the dunes, with 27% dedicated to some of the softest sand on the itinerary.

Al-Attiyah will run seventh on the road, with Loeb just ahead of him in fifth.