Action all the way as Al Rajhi's Toyota extends lead

Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin made it five different car winners in five days of Dakar 2024, while Jose Florimo stormed to his second Dakar bike win of 2024 on the 299 km fourth stage to Al Hofuf in the Arabian Desert.

Second on the day, Saudi home hero Yazeed al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk extended their overall car lead aboard their SA-built Hilux over Carlos Sainz’ Audi. Flormino has moved into a narrow bike lead over Botswana Hero Ross Branch.

Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel came out fighting to lead the way on four wheels early on in their Prodrive Hunter. They led Californian Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz in the quickest Toyota Gazoo Hilux, and Frenchmen Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger’s petrol-electric Audi. Compatriots Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin followed in the second Hunter from Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz in another Audi, and Al Rajhi.

Al-Attiyah still led Loeb and Al Rajhi by mid distance, with Sainz and Peterhansel’s Audi in chase and Guilaume de Mevius up to sixth in his Hilux. Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier continued to dominate the rear-driven category in their SA-built Century CR6-T, with SA rookie Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings’ Gazoo Hilux 12th, Nani Roma and Alex Bravo’s SA-built NWR Ford Ranger 14th ahead of Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy’s Gazoo Hilux, and SA rookies Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer 20th in the second Ranger.

The top three reshuffled as the day came to a close as Loeb grabbed the victory from his Hunter teammate. It was Loeb’s first of 2024 and his 24th overall. The 9-time World Rally Champion delivered a killer last sector to take the win, while overall leader Al Rajhi’s Toyota also disposed of Al Attiyah for second. Sainz ended fourth from de Mevius, Peterhansel and 4x2 winner Serradori. Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza’s Mini followed from Simon Vitse and Simon Lefebvre’s MD buggy and Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka’s Ford Raptor, after Dumas hit trouble in the last sector.

It was a tough day for Toyota Gazoo racing Moraes slipped to 13th, Guy Botterill ended 16th and Giniel de Villiers 18th. Saood Variawa fought back to 43rd after haemorrhaging time early in the day with issues en route. It went even worse for Seth Quintero, who was chasing for the lead when his Hilux stopped, leaving the Californian to wait for service. Nani Roma ended 14th in his NWR SA Ford Ranger, but teammate Woolridge was in trouble. Wei Han was best of the Red-Lined REVOs in 21st, with Aliyyah Koloc 27th, while Hennie de Klerk had a far better day in 31st in the TreasuryONE Hilux.

Al Rajhi meanwhile extended his overall lead to four and a half minutes over Sainz, with Al Attiyah third from Moraes in the best of the Gazoo Toyotas, Ekstrom, Loeb, Serradori, Peterhansel, Zala and de Mevius. De Villiers is best of the South Africans in 11th from top rookie Botterill in 12th. Roma’s Ford sits 15th, Wei Han’s Red Lined is 21st, Variawa 25th and de Klerk up to 46th after his earlier ordeal, one place ahead of Koloc.

Moving on to the motorcycles, Chilean Honda rider Jose Florimo stormed to his second Dakar day win of 2024 as he benefited Botswana’s Ross Branch losing a little time when his Hero rival tumbled late in the day, to move ahead in the overall bike race. Branch, who ended fourth on the day, sits a close second to Florimo overall. His fellow Southern African riders also enjoyed a good day in the saddle.

Branch initially led the way before Florimo took over up front and held the advantage all the way. Californian Ricky Brabec moved up to second for Honda from Kevin Benavides’s KTM. Branch took a tumble and lost a little time in the final sector to end up fourth from Adrien van Beveren’s Honda and Luciano Benavides’ Husqvarna. Joan Barreda’s Hero followed from American Skyler Howes’s Honda and Rui Goncalves’ on his Sherco.

Luciano and, Frenchman Adrien van Beveren’s Honda, and Branch, after Svitko hit trouble. Of the Southern Africans, Bradley Cox fought back to 25th after he slipped back early on, Husqvarna riders, Charan Moore 29th, and Zimbabwe’s Ashley Thixton 38th. KTM duo, no assistance Malle Moto man Stuart Gregory came home 83rd Ronald Venter ended 94th.

Florimo’s win on top of a one minute speeding penalty for Branch on Monday, sees the Chilean now leading overall from the Botswana Hero by a minute and fifteen seconds. Brabec sits third from Kevin Benavides, van Beveren and Luciano Benavides. Cox is 21st overall and 8th in Rally 2, Moore 28th and 13th in R2. Thixton was provisionally 40th, Venter 71st and Gregory 76th. Wednesday’s short 118 km racing route comprises dunes all the way to Shubaytah.