There are three days left until the end of the Dakar. Three stages, one of which is supposed to be the hardest ever to be ridden in Saudi Arabia. In the lead, with a twenty-minute lead, is a guy known to the whole world under the nickname El Matador. Sixty-one-year-old Carlos Sainz, immortal grandfather, extremely experienced pilot. Even at Audi, in the giant of the automotive industry, where they are extremely focused not only on the result, but also on all the processes around them, they say that his professionalism is unbelievable.
His back is covered by two other experienced professionals, the duo Mattias Ekström and Stéphane Peterhansel. All three had equal chances at the beginning, but it crystallized absolutely clearly, now they are only riding on Sainz. In today’s ninth stage, all three came together, Peterhansel even waited a few minutes for Sainz to overtake him, and then moved in behind him to cover his back and be available at any time.
The only one who can threaten Sainz is Loeb. The Prodrive driver has three second places behind him and his driving skills are unquestionable. Critics blame him for pushing too hard. That he drives too fast and too hard, it wasn’t Dakar that he didn’t have some problem. “We lost almost everything we gained,” this sentence describes not only the navigation error in the eighth stage, but basically the entire performance of Loeb in the Dakar in recent years.
When he left for the stage in the morning, he knew that he would be followed by the best guardian angel he could wish for. His team-mate Nasser Al-Attiyah had engine problems before the day off which cost him all his ambitions. And in Riyadh he clearly stated: “I will do everything for Loeb to win the Dakar.” Neither of them could have guessed that a few kilometers after the start of the ninth stage, the engine of his BRX would fail again. And when Al-Attiyah got to the bivouac and the journalist asked him if he would use the second option to return to the race, his answer shocked not only her: “Sorry, but I will not get into that car again. I’ll go see them, say thank you, and go home in the evening.” So Loeb was left alone.
Audi has a third and final attempt at victory
Whatever the Audi factory team enters in any motoring discipline, it is never just there in numbers. Rally, DTM, Le Mans and many others. In short, they want to win and will do anything for it. To fully understand the determination, you would have to see the whole circus. Escort trucks, an army of cars, top mechanics and the best engineers. And of course three great drivers, but only one of them can think about winning.
I made this video on January 7th and originally I didn’t even want to put it here. It’s a complete Audi backstory, but it feels long and drawn out. However, it fits with the article I wrote a while ago…
Posted by Jan Červenka – journalist on Tuesday, January 16, 2024
We already wrote about the RS Q e-tron on Garage. It is not an electric car, as many still mistakenly think, but rather a hybrid, where the two-liter internal combustion engine from the DTM racing car serves as a generator for the production of electricity, and the wheels of the car are turned by two electric motors. Everyone praises how well it drives. The chassis, initially the car’s biggest weakness, has been properly strengthened. The aerodynamics have been adjusted again and managed to get more kilos down. “If the RS Q e-tron used to drive well, now it drives fantastically,” said Sainz.
The strategy of having two support cars in the race is a luxury that could help Sainz grab the much-desired victory for Audi. They have several options. They can drive in pairs to avoid navigation errors, the third car will then be a backup in case of technical problems. They can have two cars drive off him and simply cover his back. Or they can do that by sacrificing one car to slow Loeb down – maybe just by dusting him.
Loeb will ride the vabank
The French rider has little choice. If it really does go as far as Nasser Al-Attiyah going home (and at the time of writing this seems to be the case), he has only one possible strategy left: Go as fast as he can. Which is close to Loeb, after all, he won today’s ninth stage with a lead of four minutes! But be careful, he also had two punctures at the end… And since he only carries two reserves, it’s really a bet on a single card.
Currently, Loeb is twenty minutes and three stages away from first place. And especially the penultimate one is said to be the decisive one. “The organizers have been talking about it from the very beginning and even from the engineer from Toyota, who always has the best information from the organizers, we know that probably anything can really happen there,” says Quirin Müller, manager of the Czech team Orlen Jipocar, for whom Martin is competing Prokop. “We are curious. We are currently in eighth place, within striking distance of fifth, but we can easily fall down as well. We’ll see.”
And while Prokop will go fast, but not over the edge, Loeb has no choice and will have to keep the gas on the floor at all times. And as we all know, mistakes are not forgiven in the Dakar, no matter how many world titles you want.
Is Nasser Al-Attiyah on the run from Prodriv?
And with what happened today, one more thing resonates in the bivouac: Will Nasser escape from Prodriv? After years of success with Toyota, he left for the British team to race the BRX this year and the Dacia next year, which will be built by Prodrive. And Dacia is supposed to be based on the BRX.
“It’s a lesson for me,” says Al-Attiyah emotionally at the end of a video directly for Dakar social networks. And so everyone immediately thinks about whether they will go back to Toyota, or what will actually happen.
Nasser Al Attiyah says #Dakar2024 is over for him, with important lessons learned ⛔️ Whilst for Sébastien Loeb it’s all good 🚗
Posted by Dakar Rally on Tuesday, January 16, 2024
“But be careful, Dacia will not have this engine, which failed twice here for Al-Attiyah,” explains Ivan Matoušek, Prokop’s engineer. “The BRX is powered by a six-cylinder 3.5L with two turbos, that is, the engine we have in Shrek, with the only difference being that the BRX has an older version of it. And Dacia should also have a six-cylinder with two turbos, but it will be a three-liter from Infiniti, i.e. a sister brand of the concern. So I would be careful with those departures.”
But Dacia at the Dakar, we will only be interested in that in a year. Now it’s a real battle of the titans: Audi vs. Loeb. Who do you bet on? Who will finish first? Sainz? Loeb? Or someone else entirely?
Who will win the Dakar in the car category?
Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive).
A total of 0 readers voted.