Dakar Stage 7

Dakar Stage 7
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Mechanics work their magic during well-deserved Dakar Rest Day.

The 2022 Dakar Rally convoy clocked up more than 2,000km of racing over perilous terrain before arriving at the Rest Day. As competitors took a well earned day off from the track, the mechanics got busy tuning up the race vehicles for a second week of intense off-road action.

Tomorrow they depart from Riyadh with a further 2,000km to navigate, spread across six desert stages. Before the action gets back underway we’ve picked out some star performers and rounded up the latest results. Here is all you need to know:

- In the car category, the first week could not have gone much better for Nasser Al-Attiyah. In combination with co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) and the new Toyota Hilux T1+, the results have spoken for themselves. A pair of stage wins and an overall lead of close to 50 minutes have the Qatari driver on course for a fourth Dakar title.

- Al-Attiyah said: “We’re very happy to have a good lead after the first week of the rally. Now we just have to concentrate on managing the race during the second week of the Dakar.”

- Aside from Al-Attiyah, one of the star performers has been Spain’s Laia Sanz. It may not be her Dakar debut – having completed 11 editions on a bike – but this is her first time racing on four wheels.

- At the midway point, Sanz and co-driver Maurizio Gerini (ITA) have improved with every passing stage and they remain on course to bring their MINI ALL4 Racing to the finish line.

- Sanz said: “The first week was an awesome experience. Sure, we had problems and lost time, but we are coping better with the MINI all the time and are gaining a lot of experience. Our goal for the coming week is always to finish in the top 30, in order to ensure we have a good starting position.”

- In the bike category, two former winners and last year’s best placed rookie all feature in the current top three. 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland (GBR) leads from Matthias Walkner (AUS) by 2m39s. Then comes Sunderland’s GasGas team-mate Daniel Sanders (AUS) a further three minutes back in third overall.

- If Sunderland maintains his lead until the finish line he will become the first rider to win the Dakar bike race with two different brands since the legendary Richard Sainct (FRA) did it two decades ago.

- Sunderland said: “It’s always good to be leading the Dakar. Even if it’s a slim advantage, it’s been the same for the past four or five days. I had a big crash on Stage 4 that took the wind out of my sails for a little bit. I’m going to use the Rest Day to get back some energy for a big fight in the second week.”

- Another noteable performer in the bike category is two-time MotoGP winner Danilo Petrucci. The Italian has been box office on his Dakar debut, with the emotion on display after his Stage 5 win being a standout moment no matter what happens during week two.

- Petrucci said: “It feels like in the last 10 days I have lived two lifetimes. Everything is new for me so I’m learning every second. I’m so happy to make it to the Rest Day, almost in one piece.”

- In the truck category, there’s a a very strong possibility that the winner of the 2022 Dakar truck race will be a Team Kamaz Master driver, but which one?

- Defending champion Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) leads at the midway point from Eduard Nikolaev (RUS). Nikolaev has already driven to four Dakar victories so will experience count in the end? Or will Anton Shibalov (RUS) charge from third overall to take his first Dakar win?

- Nikolaev said: “Because our truck is new we have been in testing mode this first week. Now we know how it performs on this terrain we will increase our speed in the second week and go on the attack.”

- The truck race more than any other category at the Dakar is truly a team sport, and Team Kamaz Master exemplify the spirit of pulling together in the same direction. As always, the four drivers were seen getting their hands dirty on the Rest Day, mucking in with the mechanics and engineers to prepare their trucks for the second week.

- In the T3 category, Chaleco López (CHI) is on course to make it back-to-back victories in the side-by-side categories. Last year he dominated the T4 class and this year he leads the T3 race at the halfway point.

- Meanwhile, 2021 FIA World Cup winner Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) remains determined to defend her spot on the overall podium during the second week.

- Gutiérrez said: “Now we have another week and a lot more things will happen. At the moment we are happy with our result and how we are working as a team. We need to keep things like this and do our best in the second week.”

- Another star performer that has got the entire bivouac talking is 19-year-old Seth Quintero (USA). Despite six stage wins in seven days or racing, the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver is out of the running for the overall lead due to mechanical issues on Stage 2. However, the teenager has since readjusted his goals and is aiming for a new target.

- Quintero said: “This has probably been the most heartbreaking and rewarding week that will ever happen to me at Dakar. We’ve raced seven days now and got six wins, so we’re looking at breaking the record for most stage wins in a single Dakar.”

- The racing gets back underway tomorrow with a timed special stage of 401km between Riyadh and Al Dawadimi. Stage 7 starts with around 100km of sand dunes as the Dakar convoy are thrown straight in at the deep end after the Rest Day.