Sebastien Loeb met la pression sur le leader Carlos Sainz. MAXPPP – Red Bull Media
Le Français n'en finit plus de gagner. La victoire finale est chaque jour un peu plus envisageable.
The start of the comeback for Sébastien Loeb ? The Frenchman (Prodrive) grabbed precious minutes in the general standings from Carlos Sainz (Audi) on Sunday by winning the 7th stage, the third since the start of the Dakar -2024. "It's a benchmark stage", rejoiced Fabian Lurquin, co-driver of the nine-time world rally champion.
After shining in the dunes of the Empty Quarter, the duo set the best time of the special, ahead of the Brazilian Lucas Moraes (Toyota), at 7 min 06. The Alsatian signs his 26th victory stage in the competition and moved up to 2nd place overall, thanks to the mechanical problems of Mattias Ekström (Audi).
The Swede suffered from the first 50 kilometers of this long special, a rear axle problem preventing him from restarting. He lost several hours in the battle but above all any chance of final victory. "It's an impeccable day for us, one Audi less, there is still Carlos in front", nuanced Sébastien Loeb.
Hard blow for Audi and Carlos Sainz, still leader overall, but who lost 10 min 31 to his rival at the end of the stage. “It'was a very complicated day. We had a puncture because there were a lot of stones. And then, Sébastien did a very good job (…), ten minutes is a lot, noted the Madrilenian.
The five-time winner of the Dakar Nasser Al-Attiyah (Prodrive), too far behind in the general standings to play spoilsport, finished his race 9 min 47 behind his teammate Sébastien Loeb. He will start on Monday just ahead of Carlos Sainz, which could hamper the Spaniard on the tracks. “The fact that he's close to me could also help in the event of a triple puncture", mentioned Sébastien Loeb, in reference to his misfortunes during the 3rd stage.
Van Beveren 2nd of stage
On the motorcycle side, the Chilean Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) makes it three thanks to another victory on this Dakar. "Nacho" shone on the special, beating Argentinian Luciano Benavides (Husqvarana), 3 min 12 behind. The Chilean regained 3rd place overall, 6 min 48 behind Ricky Brabrec (Honda). The American finished 7 min 26 behind the Chilean and, thanks to a tiny second, retained his 1st place overall ahead of the Botswanan Ross Branch (Hero), 4th at 6 min 36 on the stage.
"The day after a day of rest is always complicated. I started in third position, there were a lot of traps and I haven't had a respite since km 41, emphasized Ricky Brabec at the end of the race. Winner in the formidable '48h Chrono', Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) had the difficult task of opening the 483 km special. "BVA" finishes his race 12 min 44 behind the Chilean, thanks to the 5 min 37 bonuses recovered when he opened the special but slips to 4th place overall, 14 min 39 behind his teammate Ricky Brabec.
"I knew that starting in front was not a gift, I tried everything, to be as lucid as possible but it' ;was super hard to navigate. I gardened a little in the dunes, at the end I missed an exit, that's how it is, reacted the Frenchman, resigned.
For the 8th stage, the competitors will leave the center of the kingdom on Monday to head north to Ha'il, with a 458 km special, less intense than the last ones, without obstacles major but with some rocky tracks.