The Dakar Rally 2022 has reached its halfway point and this Saturday participants have enjoyed a well-deserved rest day at the Saudi Arabian capital, Riad. Amongst them, Nasser Al-Attiyah, the leader and most dominant rival in cars, has been able to relax in the comfort of his sizable advantage of the standings.
Currently, the Qatari is 48 minutes and 54 seconds ahead of local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive Toyota) and leads nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Extreme) by 50 minutes 25 seconds. Nasser Al-Attiyah has won the 1st and 4thspecials so far as well as the prologue stage and was second in another one. Aided by his outstanding co-pilot, the Frenchman Matthieu Baumel, and his very efficient new Hilux, Nasser has outperformed all of his rivals in every terrain.
— Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (@TGRSouthAfrica) January 4, 2022
Nasser Al-Attiyah said: “We tried to push from the beginning, but some drivers made some mistakes. We are quite happy to have finished the first week of the Dakar with a good lead. Mathieu did a good job. He was very careful to avoid making mistakes“.
“I think we are in a good way. We’ve worked a lot this week without any risks. This is the Dakar and we will try to manage next week without any risks. We need to be strong all the way. We need to have a good pace without any relaxing because, when you relax, you make a mistake. We also need to navigate well.”
Stage 1: Nasser Al-Attiyah win; Audi, KO
The first stage, with a start and finish in the city of Hail, proved to be key to his success. It was then that he was able to leave behind a few of his big rivals, who were struggling with navigation issues. The Hilux #201, however, asserted its authority, with an outstanding triumph amid the debacle of some of the other teams, including Audi.
After suffering a presumed roadbook error, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz lost 2 hours, 22 minutes and 7 seconds, as well as every chance of success in this Dakar, trying to find their way. Similarly, their teammate Stephane Peterhansel lost 23 hours, 31 minutes and 15 seconds after destroying the rear axle of his Audi RS Q-etron Quattro, 250 kilometres into the 333 km stage.
As for the third German car, the Swede Mattias Ekström finished a whole hour, 45 minutes and 50 seconds behind the winner. A devastating result for the team. Loeb, Al-Attiyah’s other great opponent, managed to steer clear from any big incident in that first stage and finished in second place 12 minutes and 44 seconds behind the winner. Thanks to his very efficient BRX Hunter T1 +, the Frenchman has become the prime candidate to beat the Hilux.
Stage 5 of the Dakar is underway, but here’s a look at some onboard action from yesterday’s Stage 4, with #TGR’s Nasser and Mathieu. The pair won the stage and is currently opening the stage, which is tricky without the benefit of tracks left by the bikers. #TGRDakar2022 #TGRW2RC pic.twitter.com/z49hvxPGx5
— Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa (@TGRSouthAfrica) January 6, 2022
Loeb strikes back
Only 24 hours after that, in fact, Loeb had a chance to retaliate and make it clear to Nasser that he is to dispute him the title until the very end. At the third stage, however, he lost 33 minutes, moving down from second to third place in the standings widening his gap from the lead to over 37 minutes.
And although he has disputed several exciting duels with the Qatari, he was not been able to prevent him from opening his distance in the standings to 50 minutes and 25 seconds ahead of the rest day.
His title contender, Seb Loeb said: “the gap to Nasser is 50 minutes. It’s quite a lot, nearly one hour. But we’ll see. There is still a long way to go, so we’ll continue to push, to try and do some good stages. I have no goal. I will try to do my best and the result will be what it is.”
— Bahrain Raid Xtreme (@BRaidXtreme) January 3, 2022
Audi´s roller coaster
The Audi crew, for its part, has experienced a roller coaster of sensations during this first week of racing. Mistakes, breakdowns and, in the end, some great results with a victory to make History as the first electric car to win in the desert and two second places. All in all a very positive start to the Dakar German project.
𝗘𝗟 𝗠𝗔𝗧𝗔𝗗𝗢𝗥 ⚔️ 🇪🇸
History has been made as @CSainz_Oficial drove his @AudiSport RS Q e-Tron to a @Dakar Rally stage win – the first for an electric hybrid vehicle! 🤜🤛#Dakar2022 #DakarRally #RedBullMotorsports #Audisport pic.twitter.com/IZEYc8RGjL
— Red Bull Motorsports (@redbullmotors) January 5, 2022
Images of Nasser Al-Attiyah: Toyota Gazoo Racing