The 2022 Dakar Rally resumed after a rest day with Stage 7 and some very familiar names atop the overall podium after the 701-kilometer segment from Riyadh to Al Dawadimi.
Rally legend Sebastien Loeb won in the car class, finishing ahead of overall leader and three-time Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatar native still holds a lead of nearly 45 minutes over Loeb through seven of 12 stages.
“We had a fantastic special until 50 kilometers before the line, when we started having engine problems,” said Loeb, a nine-time World Rally champion trying to win his first Dakar. “It just sputtered on, off and on again … We lost a lot of time near the end, but we still came out on top, so no complaints from my side. We’re not in a position of strength, there are no questions to be answered. There is no strategy. We’ll just do our job and see how it plays out.”
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Said Al-Attiyah: “The second week of the Dakar is a different race altogether. We didn’t really try to attack this morning, we left it for later in the stage. I’m not following any strategy. If we’re in a position to win a special, we won’t let it slip away, but our priority is to give it our all day after day and hope that it will pay off at the end of the Dakar.”
Three-time Dakar Rally champion Carlos Sainz finished third in the stage but remained out of overall contention nearly 45 minutes off the lead.
In the bike division, Nacho Cornejo won Stage 7 while Adrien Van Beveren moved into the overall lead with a 10th in the stage.
Sam Sunderland fell from first to fourth overall after teammate Daniel Sanders, who won Stage 6, crashed in the liaison after clipping a kerb just a few kilometers after leaving the bivouac.
“It was a bit of a rough day,” Sunderland said. “It started out bad for Sanders with a crash in the liaison and then the stage was really, really difficult with the navigation, so not ideal to start in front. Where the rains have passed through after the 00 car, so many of the tracks are washed away, so it’s a bit of a casino. You just flip a coin and hope it’s that one.
“Honestly, it’s a bit frustrating, but at the same time I’m sure the next days will be the same for the other guys. Even yesterday, when people were asking if I was excited about leading the race, of course, it’s cool, but it means nothing on the rest day. We still have so many long days in front of us and I’m sure there’ll be some more opportunities to attack, to recuperate some time.”
Sanders missed the start after being taken to a Riyadh hospital because of an injured elbow. A GasGas team manager said Sanders was out of the race.
The jumbled standings gave home to some riders such as 2020 winner Ricky Brabec, who has moved up to 13th with a seventh in the stage. The Hesperia, California, native still is recovering from getting lost during a nightmarish first stage.
“A lot can change in six days, as you know,” Brabec said. “It’s rally, things change daily. And yeah we’re going to keep fighting.”
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In SSV, U.S. driver Austin Jones moved back into the overall lead with a 10th-place finish in the seventh stage. Former leader Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira dropped to fifth overall (36 minutes behind Jones) after finishing Stage 7 nearly an hour off the winner in 15th because of navigation problems for the rookie.
“It was a good day for us,” Jones said. “It was really long, pretty brutal, really hard navigation today. We got turned around in a couple of spots but big shoutout to my navigator Gustavo for figuring it out. I know that it was really hard so definitely good on him, and that we gained a little bit of time today on the overall so that’s good.”
In the light prototype division, Seth Quintero won his fifth consecutive stage and seventh overall. The American stayed on track for breaking the Dakar record for stage victories (10), which he can top by winning four of the last five stages.
“It’s a super big relief because I was getting a little nervous,” said Quintero, who lost about 20 minutes trying to find the course. “That record is not going to be easy to break so now we’ve got a little more room. Hopefully, we don’t need it to get a few more stage wins and beat that record.”
Here are the stage winners and the top three overall in each category after Day 7:
Stage 7 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), 3:09:32. Overall: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 23:52:22; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 24:37:21; 3. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Toyota, 24:45:53.
Stage 7 winner: Nacho Cornejo (CHL), 3:28:46. Overall: 1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 23:45:02; 2. Matthias Walkner (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 23:50:14; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 23:50:25. Other U.S. notables: 10. Andrew Short, Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 24:13:12; 12. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 24:17:58; 13. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 24:23:54. Withdrew: Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing.
Stage 7 winner: Anton Shibalov (RAF), 3:33:17. Overall: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 26:05:54; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 26:11:08; 3. Anton Shibalov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 26:37:19.
Stage 7 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), 3:45:20. Overall: 1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 28:17:24; 2. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 29:41:29; 3. Cristina Gutierrez Herrero (ESP), Red Bull Off-Road Team USA, 30:30:04. Notable: 10. Seth Quintero (USA), 44:13:04.
Stage 7 winner: Aron Domzala (POL), 4:00:56. Overall: 1. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 29:28:14; 2. Michal Goczal (POL), Cobant-Energylandia Rally Team, 29:33:25; 3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), 29:34:47.
Stage 7 winner: Marcelo Medeiros (BRA), 4:17:18. Overall: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 29:38:54; 2. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally Team, 29:57:15; 3. Aleksandr Maksimov (RAF), Chyr Mari, 30:31:33.