Sébastien Loeb continued his excellent Dakar Rally form by claiming his fourth stage win of the event, as Nasser Al-Attiyah maintains a comfortable overall lead.
At the wheel of his Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter T1+, Loeb and navigator Fabian Lurquin dominated the 114km special to head Audi’s Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist by just over three minutes.
Overdrive Racing’s Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk were third quickest, dropping over five minutes to Loeb although the Toyota pairing maintain second overall by 16 minutes.
Although considerably shorter than the bulk of the timed stages so far, the “deliberately short” 114km selective section on the Haradh to Sheybah route provided a stern test of navigation and car durability.
Labelled as an “appetizer” for the pair of marathon stages on Thursday and Friday, this was the first foray into the mammoth Empty Quarter of south-eastern Saudi Arabia, following a whopping 467km of liaison.
Run almost entirely in the dunes, the stage began on a large, fast gravel track before heading off-piste after just three kilometers.
Despite opening the road for the cars following his stage nine victory on Tuesday, Loeb and Lurquin built up a margin of 28s from fellow Prodrive Hunter Vaidotas Zala at the first waypoint.
Zala then tumbled down the order after encountering mechanical woes before the first control point at the 62km marker, allowing the Overdrive Racing Toyota of Moraes and Gottschalk into second.
For his part, Loeb stayed out of trouble for the duration of the stage, extending his gap out front and coming home just over three minutes clear of the sole remaining Audi of Ekström and Bergkvist.
Moraes lost 5m22s to Loeb but remains second in the overall classification, 16 minutes ahead of his more experienced rival.
Al-Attiyah had another clean stage in the leading Hilux T1+, as he and navigator Mathieu Baumel continue to ease their way to a fifth Dakar Rally victory.
The Qatari lost 5m45s to Loeb but only 28s to nearest challenger Moraes.
Sixth on the stage and just 29s in arrears of Al-Attiyah was Kuba Przygónski and Armand Monleon in the X-raid Mini JCW Rally. Przygónski is enjoying a rich vein of form in the second week after reliability issues took him out of the running early in the rally.
Starting sixth on the road, the Pole finished just behind Yazeed Al Rajhi’s Overdrive Racing Toyota and ahead of Al-Attiyah’s TGR team-mate Henk Lategan.
The latter dropped nearly eight minutes to Loeb in his fight for the final place on the overall podium and is now 11 minutes down in fourth.
Away from the podium battle in the overall classification, Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers holds onto fifth place, 35 minutes clear of Romain Dumas and Max Delfino in their Rebellion Racing Toyota Hilux.
Five minutes back from sportscar driver Dumas is Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka in their Orlen Benzina Team Ford who in turn are six minutes ahead of Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century CR6.
Wei Han (Hanwei Motorsport Team) and Juan Cruz Yacopini (Overdrive Racing) complete the top 10.
Following the short liaison to Sheybah, the Dakar caravan will now embark on the first leg of the marathon stage tomorrow.
Described by the ASO as “a love letter to rally raids” this will be the first real test of endurance, both mechanically and physically, as no outside assistance is permitted on either stage 11 or stage 12.
Overall standings after Stage 10:
1 Al-Attiyah/Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) 36h13m37s
2 Moraes/Gottschalk (Overdrive Racing) +1h21m34s
3 Loeb/Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +1h37m23s
4 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +1h48m37s
5 De Villiers/Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +2h10m56s
6 Dumas/Delfino (Rebellion Racing) +2h45m24s
7 Prokop/Chytka (Orlen Benzima Team) +2h50m02s
8 Baragwanath/Cremer (Century Factory Racing Team) +2h56m28s
9 Han/Li (Hanwei Motorsport Team) +3h43m22s
10 Yacopini/Oliveras Carreras (Overdrive Racing) +4h00m35s
Quintero beats Casale in epic stage-long T3 duel
The dunes are a great performance leveller on the Dakar and this was no better proven than among the T3 Lightweight Prototype class, as Seth Quintero and Ignacio Casale broke into the top 10.
The pair went toe-to-toe for the stage win, with X-raid Yamaha’s Casale edging the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA driver by 29s at the first waypoint.
Quintero then moved ahead at the second by just two seconds before Casale overturned that deficit to lead by seven seconds at the 84km marker.
But Quintero had the final word and took the stage win with a superb final section, beating his rival by 37s.
In the overall classification, Guillaume de Mevius continues to lead Red Bull’s Austin Jones, but by a reduced margin of 7m48s. Can-Am Factory Team’s Francisco Chaleco López Contardo is fourth, with team-mate Cristina Gutiérrez Herrero – finally enjoying a clean stage – fifth.
Goczał makes further inroads into Baciuška lead
Teenage sensation Eryk Goczał took over a minute out of Rokas Baciuška’s T4 SSV lead as Gerard Farres Guell took another stage win.
South Racing’s Farres Guell was 55s quicker than Marek Goczał, with the latter’s son and Energyland Rally team-mate Eryk was third, 1m08s.
Baciuška was fourth quickest, 1m22s down on the younger Goczał, but remains 3m40s clear in the overall classification ahead of the Marathon Stage.
Farres Guell had been in a lively scrap with Yasir Seaidan for much of the stage, with just four seconds separating the pair in Farres Guell’s favor.
That gap extended to 30s by the second waypoint, before Seaidan fell back.
Former biker Xavier de Soultrait produced another strong stage performance in the Sébastien Loeb Racing Polaris, finishing fifth quickest.