The second half of the Dakar has started. In the truck category, there are actually only four cars fighting for victory, the situation is even more dramatic in motorcycles, cars and light prototypes. And Dakar begins to write its stories. This one is about stars becoming royally paid water carriers.

He won the Dakar fourteen times. He is one of the three stars of the Audi factory team. And this morning, a few tens of kilometers after the start of the seventh stage, Stéphane Peterhansel stopped by the broken down car of his colleague Mattias Ekström. That morning he started as the second man in the preliminary ranking of the competition, but now everyone is anxiously waiting to see how deep he will fall in the starting field. According to unverified information, he had problems with the studs on the rear wheel, and the organizers estimated that he would lose two hours with the repair. But Peterhansel did not stay with him for long, after a while he set off further into the desert. He mainly has to cover the back of Carlos Sainz, who together with his team has a clear priority – to finally win the Dakar!

Photo: ASO

Two hybrid Audis during the seventh stage. The 14-time Dakar winner helps his colleague, whose left rear wheel attachment was damaged at the 47th kilometer.

Meanwhile, Sébastien Loeb weaves his way through the track. And he goes for everything. The nine-time World Rally Champion has been trying to win this competition since 2016, but his maximum is three second places. Last year and the year before, Nasser Al-Attiyah deprived him of the title, even when he was racing with Toyota. And he is Loeb’s colleague for the first time this year. In a demanding 48h Chrono stage, the day before more durable chassis parts were due to arrive on his BRX, he damaged the steering and lost three hours in the dunes. “I’m resigned to not winning. But I will do everything to help my teammate win,” said Al-Attiyah on a day off in Riyadh.

Photo: ASO

Once rivals, now partners. They lost everything, but now one helps the other to victory.

How does he want to do it? He, too, can simply stop in the event of Loeb’s technical problems and let his identical car cannibalize. Or it can make it difficult for others to compete, it will simply be dusty for them. Or he will lead them astray, in exactly the same way as the kamazes once did.

The behind-the-scenes information about the fact that the Overdrive team, i.e. Toyota, filed a protest against Nasser Al-Attiyah for illegal help in repairing the car is all the more spicy now – the truck that brought him spare parts should not have gone along the track, but into the desert behind him reach If this is confirmed, he would most likely be disqualified.

Both Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah are the two giants of the starting field, both are undoubtedly paid royally. Now they are “just” so-called water carriers, but they are still indispensable.

And a similar story, albeit without all those gold coins, but perhaps all the more instructive, was experienced today by the Czech competitor Milan Engel, a member of the MRG team. When he withdrew from the competition last year after technical problems, not only the fans were scratching their heads that he could have continued and helped his partner Martin Michko in case of problems. He didn’t want to. “I have no motivation, no reason. I want to go home,” he repeated.

Today, at the sixty-first kilometer, the rear rosette broke on his motorcycle, which was replaced on a day off as a precaution. He was stopped by Jára Romančík, a teammate who is already out of order due to problems with the electronics. And the electricity still bothered him today, but he still started. And he stopped at the desperate Engel, quickly removed his rear wheel and together they flipped it over. “I have nothing left to lose,” he then wrote on his social networks.

The organizers were not lying when they promised the riders that it would be a hellish 470 kilometers. And Martin Prokop, the fastest Czech in cars, will certainly be thinking about the fact that he too could use a second car in the team, and therefore also on the track…