Thursday’s 420km check between Al-’Ula and Yanbu marked Loeb’s final actual probability of overhauling Audi’s Carlos Sainz Sr within the total standings, with Friday’s last stage being too brief to make a critical impression.
The Prodrive star had a 13-minute deficit to beat in some of the treacherous phases of 2024 Dakar, however his hopes of a maiden victory within the marathon were crushed when he hit a giant rock after leaping off a crest, damaging the front-right A-arm on his Hunter.
The Frenchman had known as on the Prodrive help truck for assist, which wasn’t even positioned initially of the particular, earlier than YunXiang China driver Zi Yungang arrived on the scene with the required spare elements in his buyer Hunter.
Loeb was finally in a position to take his hobbled automobile to the end line, not helped by a slew of punctures, however dropped to 3rd within the standings behind the Overdrive Toyota of Guillaume de Mevius.
Loeb would have doubtless been in a position to restore his automobile on time had Al-Attiyah nonetheless been working in Dakar, however the Qatari driver withdrew from the occasion on Stage 9 attributable to a collection of problems with his personal.
This meant that the 49-year-old was successfully left on his personal in a stage that caught out various drivers final yr, whereas Sainz and Audi team-mates Mattias Ekstrom and Stephane Peterhansel labored in unison to make sure the Spaniard might safely make it to the end.
Loeb feels this put him in a critical drawback to Sainz and meant he didn’t stand an opportunity of ending his dropping streak in Dakar.
“We’re proud of what we did,” stated the Prodrive man. “For certain it did not work like we wished.
“On the finish we didn’t have any probability in opposition to Group Audi. They had been driving collectively. That they had two vehicles serving to Carlos. He was protected, he had three punctures yesterday.
“I could not have three punctures as a result of I’d keep [stuck] within the stage. So yeah. Preventing alone in opposition to an entire staff like Audi is troublesome.”
Photograph by: Pink Bull Content material Pool
#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb
Requested if it was a foul choice to let Al-Attiyah withdraw from this yr’s Dakar, Loeb stated: “Nasser is doing what he desires on the finish.
“So it is not a choice we made to let him go. However for certain at this time we had no probability in opposition to the Audi. Once you see how the stage was, being alone there with all these punctures, it was no probability.”
Loeb’s troubles didn’t finish after his automobile was repaired on the 132km mark as he suffered three extra punctures on his method to the end line.
Amid a restricted quantity of spares, Loeb was compelled to crawl to the end line on decreased velocity on “three fully destroyed tyres.”
Requested what number of punctures he suffered over the course of the complete stage, together with earlier than the accident, he stated: “5. Then we needed to reuse all punctured tyres all the way down to the rim.
“When you’re on the rim, if you happen to hit a stone and also you crumple it, it may not go over the caliper anymore, then you possibly can’t take it off.
“So after we actually had been on the rim, we swapped it with a wheel that also had a tyre on, and it lasted for ten kilometres till it delaminated. As soon as delaminated, we put the final one again, however we drove at 50 km/h.”
Loeb admitted that he had given up hope of ending the stage earlier than one other Prodrive stablemate Yungang got here to his rescue and allowed him to remain within the hunt for a podium end.
Requested if ending the stage was a small miracle given his ordeal, he stated: “In some unspecified time in the future, I contemplated taking the helicopter to return again and look forward to the truck, however we weren’t going to go away the automobile in the midst of the desert,” he stated.
“They might have had a tough time retrieving it. I had no plans at this time, so I assumed we would look forward to the truck! In the long run, the Chinese language driver arrived and that was good.
“We thought we would retired, we had been sat on a stone. In spite of everything we received going once more, so a small miracle, I do not know… These aren’t my favorite miracles!”
Extra reporting by Ben Vinel