Nasser Al-Attiyah maintained a hold of the overall lead on Day 4 of the 2022 Dakar Rally, picking up a stage victory in the car division Wednesday.
The win initially was awarded to Yazeed Al Rajhi, but a 2-minute penalty for speeding bumped the Saudi Arabia native to fifth. Al Rajhi still climbed to third overall, just over 49 minutes behind Al-Attiyah.
Sebastien Loeb finished second in Wednesday’s 707-kilometer stage from Al Qaisumah to Riyadh and is second in the overall rankings to Al-Attiyah, who leads by 38 minutes through four of 12 stages.
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Losing the victory actually was a satisfactory result for Al Rajhi, who didn’t want to start first Thursday because bikes won’t be preceding the cars (and leaving their tracks) in Stage 5. “We were trying not to go too fast to avoid having to open the stage tomorrow because there won’t be any motorbikes in front,” Al Rajhi said.
That also was the plan for Al-Attiyah, though the three-time Dakar Rally champion still felt confident.
“We are moving in the right direction day after day,” Al-Attiyah said. “We tried to set a high pace, but our plan was not having to open tomorrow because there will be no bikes and, therefore, no tracks. But even if we falter a bit tomorrow in these conditions, it will put us in a favorable position for the next day.”
Loeb lost only 25 seconds to the lead and was pleased to be starting Stage 5 behind Al-Attiyah.
“Finishing behind Nasser today to start behind him tomorrow is a good trade-off,” Loeb said. “There won’t be any bikes at the front, so the first cars will regroup, so it’s not bad at all. Tomorrow will be difficult: a big stage where things can happen. At any rate, our confidence in the car has been restored. It was a clean special.”
In the bikes class, Joan Barreda Bort scored his second stage victory of 2022 while Sam Sunderland held an overall lead of 3 minutes. Ricky Brabec was the highest-finishing American in the stage with a 10th, and the 2020 overall winner is just under 55 minutes off the lead.
“We’re doing great,” Brabec said. “Everything was good. I started out seventh today and made a strong push to try and make a little bit of time. Unfortunately, I suffered a small speeding penalty. Other than that, the stage was good. Happy to be here with no mistakes. Happy to also keep the bike on the wheels. I haven’t dropped them once, so that’s all good.
“Still a long rally to go. We’ll see how things shape up here at the end of the week before rest day, and then after rest day, we’ll keep pushing until the end and try to get within striking distance of the podium. It’s going to be tough, we’ve got our work cut out for us, but it can happen.”
In the lightweight division, Seth Quintero, 19, won his second consecutive stage and fourth overall, but the American remained more than 16 hours behind the lead after major mechanical problems in Stage 2.
Here are the stage winners and the top three overall in each category after Day 4:
Stage 4 winner: Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 3:54:40. Overall: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 13:26:02; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 14:04:07; 3. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Toyota, 14:15:17.
Stage 4 winner: Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), 4:07:06. Overall: 1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GasGas Factory Racing, 15:30:01; 2. Matthias Walkner (AUS), GasGas Factory Racing, 15:33:01; 3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 15:34:55. Other U.S. notables: 8. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 15:45:17; 12. Andrew Short, Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 16:08:32; 14. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 16:10:44; 18. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 16:24:59.
Stage 4 winner: Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 4:14:46. Overall: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 15:02:53; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 15:09:03; 3. Anton Shibalov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 15:27:58.
Stage 4 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), 4:25:13. Overall: 1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 16:08:33; 2. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 16:29:32; 3. Fernando Alvarez (ESP), South Racing Can-Am, 18:11:07.
Stage 4 winner: Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), 4:44:05 . Overall: 1. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 16:38:08; 2. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 16:43:21; Michal Goczal (POL), 16:54:41.
Stage 4 winner: Aleksandr Maksimov (RAF), Chyr Mari, 5:10:28. Overall: 1. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally Team, 19:25:41; 2. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 19:40:01; 3. Aleksandr Maksimov (RAF), Chyr Mari, 19:50:36.