Dammam, Saudi Arabia — Sébastien Loeb is widely considered the greatest rally driver. 9 times world champion.
Loeb bows to fifth-time World Rally Raid Champion and Dakar winner Nasser Al-Attiyah on Sunday in Rally Raid, where the Dakar will be the biggest test.
Ahead of the latest race in Saudi Arabia, Loeb wished Al-Attiyah’s ability to read the terrain, sense problem areas and gain an enviable amount of desert experience.
“To beat them you have to have a perfect race,” said Loeb.
It was Toyota who, like Al-Attiyah and his French co-driver Mathieu Baumel, managed to stay out of trouble. In nine Dakar rallies, they won his four times, finished runner-up four times, and withdrew once.
Al-Attiyah led Dakar in the final 13 days of 15, beating Loeb by 80 minutes. This was his biggest difference in 20 years.
Only three, Stefan Peterhansel, Yazid Al Raj and Carlos Sainz, collided within 55 minutes of Al Atiyah. Peterhansel’s co-pilot Edouard Boulanger was taken to hospital with a back injury.Al Raj and Sainz were immobilized for hours.
Sainz held out until his second crash on stage nine, but was overshadowed by a spectator who died of his injuries after being hit by a track competitor. It is the fifth fatality in Dakar since it moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.
Last year’s third-placed local driver Al Raj finished 37th, 37 hours behind Al-Attiyah.
Al-Attiyah’s lead had ballooned to over an hour and he no longer needed to push hard.
“There was no need to attack like crazy,” he said. “We managed to get through the second week and win. That’s what really matters. I’m very happy to win his 5th and Mathieu his 4th…sorry Mathieu! ”
His fifth Dakar title was second only to Peterhansel, Dakar’s reigning champion with 14 wins, ahead of Ari Vatanen and eight in the Premier Car category.
Loeb was left to win six consecutive stages, a record for an elite car driver. This is the most total of seven since Sainz in 2011. Loeb finished runner-up for the third time in a row.
Brazil’s Lucas Moraes finished an impressive 3rd and was the first rookie on the podium in 35 years. He was 98 minutes behind him, but from fourth he was nearly an hour ahead.
Argentinian rider Kevin Benavidez beat his KTM team-mate Toby Price by 43 seconds after covering more than 4,000 kilometers to claim his second bike title.
They were the last riders to start the 136-kilometer 14th stage on the east coast of Al Hofuf.
“My head was empty this morning except for the one kilometer stage from 0 to 136,” said Ben Bavides. “It’s unbelievable to have won by such a small margin at the end of this completely crazy Dakar Rally. I’m also proud to be the first to win on two different bikes with his brand.”
Benavidez trailed Price by 12 seconds overall and swept it at the first checkpoint. Halfway through he was ahead of him by nearly two minutes as the two-time Australian champion missed his two checkpoints and had to turn back. Price came back, but Benavidez won the stage by 55 seconds.
He won in 2021 and was racing last year until his engine broke on stage 10. Like Al-Attiyah, he was in the top three from stage three, but injured teammate Matthias made his biggest push on Saturday after stopping to help his Walkner. 2018 champion.
American Skyler Howes, who led the class for six days, was third on the first podium five minutes ago.
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