Dakar Rally 2022, Stage 9: Seth Quintero on cusp of win record; Americans charging

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Seth Quintero scored his seventh consecutive victory during Stage 9 of the 2022 Dakar Rally, leading a solid Tuesday for surging Americans in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Quintero finished just over 2 minutes ahead of teammate Cristina Gutierrez Herrero. By winning the 491-kilometer loop around Al Dawadimi in light prototype, the San Marcos, California, native has nine victories — one short of the record set by Pierre Lartigue during a 17-stage Dakar in 1994.

With three stages remaining, Quintero, 19, will have ample opportunity to break the mark in his OT3-02 — though the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver is out of contention for the class title because of a Stage 2 mechanical failure. He has won every stage since then, embodying his “never give up” attitude (which he detailed in this recent interview with NBC Sports).

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NEVER GIVE UP: Seth Quintero focused on breaking Dakar Rally stage win record

“We had a smooth day,” Quintero said Tuesday. “A really rocky day, so we were trying to not get a flat tire. Definitely, I drove pretty consistently and conservatively. There are no team orders out here, we’re definitely fighting for our own goals. Cristina is still in the game for the overall, so hopefully, she keeps on climbing up those ranks, and obviously I’m in the hunt to break the record for the most stage wins.

“We’ve got a few stages to go and we need a few more to break the record, so hopefully we can get them and click that record off. Cristina is a very fast, consistent and smooth driver. She really doesn’t make any mistakes so it’s not going to be easy for us to try to break that record. There are fifty other people in this class that can obviously win the race. Everyone in this class is a stellar driver. It’s definitely not going to be easy, but I hope that we can get it done.”

An American class champion at the 2022 Dakar Rally still is a strong possibility after Stage 9. In SSV, Austin Jones expanded his overall lead to 14 minutes with a runner-up finish Tuesday. In Quad, Pablo Copetti, who was born in Argentina and became a U.S. citizen two years ago, scored a victory and is 24 minutes behind Alexandre Giroud.

“I will take risks,” Copetti said. “I need to reduce the gap and I want the win. The only way to win is just to try to reduce the gap so I have to go full gas.”

In the bike category, 2020 champion Ricky Brabec finished third in Stage 9 and improved to 12th overall, 35 minutes off leader Matthias Walkner. Brabec, the first American to win a Dakar class title, is surging again in the second week after finishing first and second at Dakar in Saudi Arabia the past two years.

In the car division, three-time Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah maintained a comfortable lead of nearly 40 minutes with a third place. Giniel de Villiers won in Stage 9 of the 2022 Dakar Rally for his first podium this year.

“Today we had another really good run, without any big bushes,” Al-Attiyah said. “Now we also have a good lead, so we are quite happy. Toyota have looked in good shape today, with first, second and third. The BF Goodrich tires are really working very well today because it was a mix of stones, gravel and sand.

“We are quite happy to have this good run every day. It’s not easy but we are happy to be coming close to the finish in Jeddah.”

Here are the stage winners and the top three overall in each category after Stage 9 of the 2022 Dakar Rally:

Car

Stage 9 winner: Giniel De Villiers (ZAF), 2:23:08. Overall: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 30:10:04; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 30:49:09; 3. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Toyota, 31:08:48.

Bike

Stage 9 winner: Nacho Cornejo (CHL), 2:29:30: Overall: 1. Matthias Walkner (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 30:14:03; 2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GasGas Factory Racing, 30:16:15; 3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 30:17:59. Other U.S. notables: 10. Andrew Short, Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 30:49:02; 12. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 30:49:57; 13. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 30:51:27. Withdrew: Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing.

Truck

Stage 9 winner: Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), 2:38:43. Overall: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 32:43:53; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 32:52:44; 3. Anton Shibalov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 33:25:11.

Light prototype

Stage 9 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), 2:50:04. Overall: 1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 35:47:12; 2. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 37:07:03; 3. Fernando Alvarez (ESP), South Racing Can-Am, 38:53:33. Notable: 8. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA, 51:20:22.

SSV

Stage 9 winner: Marek Goczal (POL), 3:00:52. Overall: 1. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 37:14:28; 2. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 37:28:15; 3. Michal Goczal (POL), Cobant-Energylandia Rally Team, 37:30:55.

Quad

Stage 9 winner: Pablo Copetti (USA), 3:18:58. Overall: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 38:06:16; 2. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally Team, 38:30:47; 3. Kamil Wisniewski (POL), Orlen Team, 40:44:18.


PAST RECAPS

DAY 1: Nasser Al-Attiyah takes overall lead as Audi drivers struggle

DAY 2: Sebastien Loeb wins; Austin Jones takes SSV lead

DAY 3: Led by Seth Quintero’s rebound victory, U.S. drivers and riders shine

DAY 4: Overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah wins stage after penalty

DAY 5: Petrucci becomes first MotoGP veteran to win bike stage at Dakar

DAY 6: Quintero continues impressive win streak in lightweight prototype

DAY 7: Loeb wins in overall; Jones retakes SSV lead

DAY 8: DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom wins first stage