Dakar Rally 2022, Day 1: Al-Attiyah takes lead as Sainz, Peterhansel face early trouble

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Three-time Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah remained atop the leaderboard after Day 1 of the 2022 event.

After winning the prologue of the car class Saturday, Al-Attiyah triumphed Sunday in the first stage, which he completed in just over three and a half hours in his Gazoo Racing Toyota. The special featured a 334-kilometer loop around the bivouac in Ha’il, Saudi Arabia.

“I’m happy with the job that (co-driver and navigator) Mathieu (Baumel) and myself did today,” Al-Attiyah said. “I really pushed from beginning to finish. Mathieu’s navigation was great. To finish Day 1 with a good lead is an amazing start, but there’s still so far to go.”

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The Qatar native opened a 12-minute lead over rally legend Sebastien Loeb as other big-name contenders for Audi struggled in the opener to the prestigious endurance race.

“It was a long and difficult stage,” Loeb said. “The navigation was really tricky today. The terrain was rough in places and we had two punctures to deal with. It was a hard stage to get things started.”

Carlos Sainz, who won the event in 2020, ’18 and ’10, was in 28th and more than two hours off Al-Attiyah’s lead in his electric hybrid Audi, which the Spaniard had been concerned about being down on power.

A heavily damaged rear suspension required lengthy repairs to the Audi RS Q e-tron of 13-time overall winner Stephane Peterhansel, dealing a serious blow to the hopes of “Mr. Dakar” defending his 2021 title.

It was a solid start for Seth Quintero as the American won the first stage of the light prototype division while some big names ran into trouble. At 19, Quintero is trying to become the youngest winner in Dakar history.

“Stage 1 went really well,” Quintero said. “My mindset coming into this race was to go slow in the slow and go fast in the fast. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”

In the bikes category, Daniel Sanders opened a lead of 3 minutes after winning the first stage.

Mason Klein was the highest-finishing U.S. rider in fifth. Other notable Americans: Skyler Howes (10th); Andrew Short (19th) and 2020 overall bikes winner Ricky Brabec (35th).

Brabec was one of several contenders who massively struggled with navigation problems on a course with a tricky waypoint.

“I feel like my rally is over,” Brabec said after falling more than an hour behind the lead. “I said the same thing last year on the first day, but I lost a lot more time today. I opened the stage really well today until I let my teammate past me for three minutes. I put a little too much trust in my teammate to maybe help me a little bit, so here we are. Really far back. I think we’re going to just finish.

“That being said, I hope my teammate Pablo has a good rally and we are here for him.”

Here are the top three in each category after Day 1:

Car

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 3:30:53; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 3:43:37; 3. Martin Prokop (CZE), Benzina Orlen Team, 3:53:32.

Bike

1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GasGas Factory Racing, 4:38:40; 2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Monster Energy Honda, 4:41:47; 3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 4:49:46. Other U.S. notables: 5. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 4:53:14; 10. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 5:03:52; 35. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 5:38:56.

Truck

1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 4:06:22; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 4:06:53; 3. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 4:16:20.

Light prototype

1. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:21:35; 2. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 4:23:33; 3. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 4:28:27.

SSV

1. Aron Domzala (POL), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 4:37:26; 2. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 4:39:24; 3. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 4:41:28.

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)