Sainz holds a lead of simply over 20 minutes over Loeb following Tuesday’s 417km check between Ha’il and Al-‘Ula, making him the favorite for total victory with simply three levels to run within the forty sixth version of the rally-raid.
Nevertheless, Loeb has arguably been faster of the 2 on outright tempo within the second half of the rally, profitable three of the final 4 levels in his Prodrive Hunter. The Frenchman might have made it 4 wins on trot had it not been for navigational issues on the finish of Monday’s Stage 8.
Regardless of the closing margin, Richards conceded: “Will probably be a really troublesome battle. Carlos [Sainz] could be very skilled, he is been doing this for a few years, however it’s extra for Carlos to lose now as a result of Carlos will routinely win.
“I am positive everybody will imagine that, so inform Carlos, ‘You must take it [the car] to the tip now, you are going to win it’.”
Two-time Dakar winner Sainz is among the oldest drivers on the 2024 Dakar on the age of 61, however has belied his age within the Audi RS Q e-tron to guide this yr’s occasion with three levels to run.
Richards was impressed by Sainz’s efficiency this yr, saying: “I am amazed. A lot of the guys who’re 61 [years old] are going to retire, and I am ten years older than him, and I ought to be retiring too, however I am not going to retire till we win Dakar.”
Requested what his technique shall be, particularly after Loeb was left with out an ally in Nasser Al-Attiyah following his withdrawal on Tuesday, Sainz mentioned: “The technique shouldn’t be going to vary as a result of Sebastien [Loeb] is pushing very exhausting, he is going flat out, and so are we, logically, as a result of in any other case, he’ll eat up the bottom.
Photograph by: Purple Bull Content material Pool
#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb, Fabian Lurquin
“Nevertheless, there are nonetheless three levels to go and we should not let our guard down, we’ve to maintain entering into the identical manner.
“We will begin second [tomorrow], and we’ll attempt to go as quick as doable. Tomorrow night time we’ll take into consideration the day after tomorrow. [Mattias Ekstrom and Stephane Peterhansel] are distant, however tomorrow should not be a particular with large punctures.
“It is clear that we’ve to get via tomorrow, and we’ll take into consideration the previous. That stage determined final yr’s Dakar and this yr it’ll be powerful. The punctures are nonetheless the identical and do not rely in any respect on the tyre.”
Loeb made up over 4 minutes on Sainz together with his fourth stage victory of 2024 on Tuesday, having additionally stopped Stage 4 previous to his current run of successes within the center a part of the marathon.
However the nine-time World Rally champion conceded that overhauling Sainz’s 20-minute lead on tempo alone shall be tough, which means he should depend on some misfortune hitting the Audi driver so as to declare a maiden total victory in Dakar.
“We want] to push, good navigation, and pushing is the one factor we are able to do,” he mentioned. “We will not take into consideration what the others are doing, [we must] do our job, making up [the gap to Carlos Sainz] simply by tempo shall be troublesome.
“That is life, in fact, and it will be good to have one other automotive near me, particularly these subsequent few days, which shall be lengthy and exhausting [stages] with rocks, however I’ll attempt to do it myself.”