The forty sixth version of the world’s most prestigious rally-raid kicked off with a brief 27km timed run in Al’Ula within the western a part of Saudi Arabia on Friday, with the whole part run on sandy terrain.
The Prologue, a standard function of Dakar through the years, as soon as once more served as a qualifying session of types, with the highest 10 finishers getting to decide on the beginning positions of their very own alternative for the opening stage.
In a class comprising 70 vehicles, Ekstrom drew first blood as he set a formidable time of 16m30s in his Audi RS Q e-tron, even going sooner than the highest RallyGP entry within the bikes class.
The Swede, competing in Dakar for a fourth 12 months in succession following his 2021 bow with Yamaha, beat the manufacturing facility Toyota Hilux of Seth Quintero by 23 seconds.
Quintero, who received the T3 class of the World Rally-Raid Championship final 12 months, led the Toyota contingent on a day his works team-mates lacked the tempo to interrupt inside the highest 10.
Third place in Prologue went to nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb, who completed one other three seconds adrift within the Prodrive Hunter run underneath the Bahrain Raid Xtreme banner.
Loeb, who continues to be trying to find a maiden general victory in Dakar after seven earlier makes an attempt, set an similar time to fourth-placed Marcos Baumgart in his Crew X-entered Hunter.
Photograph by: Purple Bull Content material Pool
#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb, Fabian Lurquin
Baumgart’s brother Cristian was categorized one other six seconds behind in fifth, as Prodrive secured three spots inside the highest 5.
In a return of kind for the X-Raid Mini group, as soon as a large of the Dakar Rally, Polish driver Krzysztof Holowczyc was a promising sixth within the outfit’s John Cooper Work 4×4, setting the identical time as Cristian Baumgart.
Ending simply behind in seventh was 14-time winner Stephane Peterhansel within the second of the three electric-powered Audis, with Lionel Baud subsequent up within the lead Overdrive-entered buyer Toyota.
Martin Propok, now driving a Ford Raptor for MP Sports activities/Benzina group, and Century Racing’s Brian Baragwanath rounded out the highest 10.
5-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah made a comparatively low-key begin to his title defence as he ended up twelfth in Prologue, simply behind the second-best Overdrive Toyota of Guerlain Chicherit.
Nevertheless, the Qatari driver, who has joined Prodrive this 12 months following an extended stint with Toyota, misplaced only a shade over a minute to Ekstrom, regardless of being first on the street in right this moment’s 27km take a look at.
Additional again, 2014 winner Nani Roma kicked off Ford’s maiden Dakar entry with a decent Seventeenth-place end within the Prologue with a time of 17m52s. Gareth Woolridge within the different manufacturing facility Ranger was one other minute behind in thirty first place.
Two prior Dakar champions made comparatively underwhelming begins to their 2024 outings. Carlos Sainz was provisionally thirty fourth for Audi, shedding two minutes to his team-mate Ekstrom within the course of, whereas Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers was even additional behind in forty fourth on a day Quintero completed second in his debut displaying within the high class.
With the Prologue now full, drivers will head from Al-’Ula to Al Henakiyah on Saturday for a 414km take a look at, passing by way of many volcanoes on a beforehand unexplored terrain.
Dakar 2024 – Prologue outcomes: