When the competitors set off for the penultimate stage of this year’s rally today, it will be with the knowledge that 420 kilometers of specials await them. The slightly shortened route is supposed to be full of the dreaded rocks, where you will make a puncture in a car or a truck in no time. Or you’ll fall off your motorbike and be as broken as Libor Podmol. At best.

“We’re already ahead, if you’re two hours ahead, it’s a luxury we can afford,” reports Martin Macík, leading driver in the truck category. He is an athlete at heart and soul, but he knows very well that only his own mistake can stop him. The truck prepared in the workshops of MM Technology in Sedlčany works flawlessly, it drives great, and pushing unnecessarily means the risk of standing somewhere with flat tires. Even the trucks only take two.

Aleš Loprais will certainly go in second place as he has nothing to lose, but nothing to gain either. He also has a luxury lead of 1.5 hours on third place and knows very well that only his opponent’s technical problem could help him.

Photo: Audi Motorsport

Sainz has two teammates on his back, on whom he can fully rely. Loeb’s chances are objectively significantly smaller, but that’s also why so many people are rooting for him.

On the other hand, it’s a huge drama in the cars, it doesn’t matter if you’re just watching the thrilling battle for victory, or you’re wishing Martin Prokop to break the two historic sixth places and reach the dream top five. It hasn’t been this heated and the cars so close to each other for a long time, whether we’re talking about first place or what’s happening behind them.

“Defects decide. It will be decided by who can drive fast enough, but at the same time so as not to puncture more than two tires,” says Ivan Matoušek – Prokop’s engineer, what the whole bivouac knows. “When you make the first puncture in the first forty kilometers, then you just slow down. And I’m not talking about when you do two in the first hundred kilometers. Finding that line will be key.”

It’s Audi vs. Sebastian Loeb. French competitor Prodrivu, a nine-time World Rally Champion, is thirteen minutes behind the first Carlos Sainz. The problem is that Loeb is driving alone, as his teammate Nasser Al Attiyah couldn’t bear two engine failures in his BRX and simply left the race, even though he could have continued to cover Loeb’s back. That is, to fulfill what he said before. “Of course I’m disappointed about that, right now, when there’s a chance. But we’ll keep pushing, we’ll keep hoping,” Loeb said. And by hoping, he also means that in the event of a defect, another rival could also help him. For example, Romain Dumas, Loeb’s compatriot, said that if he met Loeb with a puncture on the track, he would help him. That he himself has nothing left to lose.

At the same time, yesterday it became clear how important that strategy is. Matthias Ekstrom, Sainz’s teammate, literally opened a tire service in the desert, and when Sainz came to him, he gave him all his wheels and then waited another two hours for the service truck to arrive. “We had three punctures, this helped us not to lose more time,” said Sainz at the finish.

Audi principal Sven Quandt said before the start of the 11th stage. “As a team, we are ready to do whatever it takes to say goodbye to the Dakar Rally with a win.” Out of the three cars, Audi would easily drop one just to win. The team’s other two riders will always be on hand. And the whole world is now wondering if Peterhansel, who starts two minutes before Loeb, will wait for Sainz, who drives another two minutes later, or if he will slow down the French opponent and only Ekstrom, who starts six minutes after him, will cover Sainz’s back.

In the end, however, everything was resolved already during the draconian eleventh stage. Loeb broke the shoulder of his special BRX and at the moment it is hard to say if he will start tomorrow’s stage at all. The legendary French competitor will not win the Dakar even on the ninth attempt…

Photo: Orlen Jipocar ​​Team

Prokop was having repairs yesterday, he drove the last twenty kilometers on a torn tire and with a partially broken wheel when the connecting rod broke.

And Prokop? He is in seventh place and Ginniel De Villiers is seventeen minutes behind him. And twelve minutes separates Prokop from the fifth Guerlain Chicherit, between them is Serradori. “Up until the middle of the competition, we didn’t care much about the overall ranking, now it’s of course different,” said Viktor Chytka, Prokop’s navigator in the last part of the Dakar Podcast on the 1000 Horses platform. “In the eleventh stage, we will drive in such a way as to finish. Betting everything on one card only makes sense in the very last stage, when you see that you only have a minute left.”

We remind you that you can watch the Dakar Rally on the official website Dakar.com, where you have a timer with passes through individual control points and a map where you can see the drivers directly on the track.