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Sainz clinches historic win for Audi, Loeb third

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Sainz led virtually your entire approach within the forty sixth version of Dakar in Saudi Arabia, ultimately claiming the general victory by 1hr20m25s over the Overdrive Toyota of Guillaume de Mevius.

The Spaniard didn’t win a single particular person stage for under the third time in his Dakar profession, which dates again to his first outing with Volkswagen in 2006, however he was in a position to outshine his rivals with a sequence of constant drives as he averted the misfortunes that beset his principal rivals.

It wasn’t a very trouble-free seventeenth participation within the Dakar for Sainz, nevertheless, who suffered his first setback within the Prologue the place he may solely end forty eighth, compromising his beginning place for the rally correct.

However the 61-year-old shortly recovered from that blow to place himself instantly again within the struggle and took the lead of the general rally on Stage 2.

Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive) did transfer in entrance the next day with an distinctive efficiency, however he left the way in which clear for Sainz after overturning his Toyota Hilux within the 48-hour Stage 6.

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Within the second week of the rally, Sainz kind of retained the 20-minute lead he inherited from Al-Rajhi within the face of stiff competitors from his former World Rally Championship team-mate Loeb and was already wanting because the favorite for prime honours when the Frenchman misplaced an hour on the penultimate stage with broken suspension.

With Prodrive rival Loeb out of the operating, Sainz may afford to take his foot off the throttle and make his approach safely to the end line. 

Reaching the bivouac at Yanbu simply exterior the highest 10 on Friday, the Audi driver wrapped up his fourth profession title in Dakar (not counting his 2008 triumph within the Central European Rally) and joined the record of essentially the most profitable drivers within the historical past of the rally-raid.

Picture by: A.S.O.

#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb, Fabian Lurquin

He additionally completed the feat of profitable Dakar with 4 completely different producers, together with his earlier successes all coming with completely different manufacturers (Volkswagen, Peugeot and Mini).

Considerably, it additionally marked Audi’s first triumph in Dakar, with the German marque having solely entered the Dakar in 2022 with its formidable electric-powered RS Q e-tron.

The consequence marks a becoming send-off for Audi from Dakar, which seems set to drag the plug on its final remaining manufacturing facility programme with a purpose to put all its weight behind its upcoming Formulation 1 undertaking in 2026 with Sauber.

Audi was in competition for a 1-2 end till two-time DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom suffered mechanical points on Stage 7, leaving Sainz as its sole contender for victory.

However in an exemplary show of staff work, each Ekstrom and Stephane Peterhansel – whose bid for a fifteenth Dakar triumph was derailed with a sequence of points within the first week – assisted Sainz’s bid for victory all through the second day, ensuring he had cowl throughout difficult rocky terrains.

This was in stark distinction to Prodrive, the place Bahrain Raid Excessive driver Loeb was left largely alone within the wake of Nasser Al-Attiyah’s exit.

Loeb emerged as Sainz’s principal rival for victory following his distinctive comeback victory on Stage 6, however he wanted to beat a 30-minute deficit having misplaced a substantial period of time on days 1 and three with punctures and different points.

Loeb instantly minimize Sainz’s lead by a 3rd by profitable Stage 7 and was then in a position to get inside 5 minutes of the Spaniard on Monday, solely to undo his good work by getting misplaced within the desert with a navigation mistake.

Loeb was again inside 13 minutes of Sainz on the penultimate day when he hit a rock after touchdown from a crest, damaging his suspension.

With Al-Attiyah, who had moved to Prodrive from Toyota over the winter, having exited the rally with a sequence of issues on his Hunter, the nine-time WRC champion needed to await greater than an hour till one other Prodrive buyer entry arrived on the scene and had the spare components he wanted to restore his automotive.

That allowed de Mevius to safe a second-place end in his maiden outing within the Dakar’s Final/T1+ class, as Loeb needed to accept the ultimate spot on the rostrum regardless of profitable 5 of the 12 levels, together with Friday’s finale.

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