RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The third Dakar Rally held in Saudi Arabia has arrived in the capital, Riyadh, after six stages and seven days of racing.
The bikers and quad riders reached the rest day with 1,627 km of specials and 2,170 km of liaisons under their belt, for a total of almost 4,000 km.
Meanwhile, the FIA four-wheel vehicles have covered 1,933 km of timed sectors, a bit more than the motorbikes, which only completed a quarter of yesterday’s special for safety reasons, for a total of 4,233 km since the start in Jeddah.
Here’s a rundown of what’s happened thus far at the halfway point:
— Nasser Al-Attiyah and Toyota co-driver, Mathieu Baumel, have won two stages and continue to set a torrid pace out front, leading Yazeed Al-Rajhi by 48 minutes.
– Sébastien Loeb and his BRX Hunter were ready to make up ground, but the Frenchman lost a lot of time to a broken transmission in stage three, and then lost some more ground to a major navigation error at the end of the same stage.
– A five-hour penalty for an incident with a biker has hurt Giniel De Villiers, while Lucio Álvarez is showing strong in fifth
– Toyota Hilux T1+ cars make up 80 percent of the top five.
– The X-raid buggies that dominated the two previous editions of Dakar have not made much of an impression in the fight for the top honors.
– Although Jakub Przygoński remains within striking distance in sixth place and can still climb onto the final podium in Jeddah if things go his way.
– On the bikes, Sam Sunderland has sustained GasGas’s lead effectuated by the team’s event starter, Daniel Sanders.
– KTM’s Matthias Walkner is second in the bike division, two minutes, 39 seconds behind team GasGas since stage three.
The reigning world champion is locked in a fierce battle with Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, who stood second, and then third, until he was ejected from the provisional podium Friday.
– Defending champion Kevin Benavides, now riding for KTM, is no exception.
The Argentinian is 25 minutes down on the leader, with Price at 39 minutes, nine seconds, and Brabec even further back at 49 minutes, 20 seconds.
– Mason Klein could not have asked for a better Dakar debut.
— The 20-year-old rookie, 10th overall at 37 minutes, eight seconds is playing in the big league and leads the Rally2 category by 39 minutes, 37 seconds over another newcomer, Bradley Cox, son of KTM legend Alfie Cox, in 12th.
— In light prototypes, Francisco López reached the rest day in Riyadh with 23 minutes in hand over his young teammate, Sebastian Eriksson.
— The Can-Ams do not seem overly concerned about their lack of partial successes, as OT3 Red Bull’s Seth Quintero captured another stage win.
Although a broken differential case in stage two knocked the young American out of contention for the top honors, he continues to put on a sensational show around the dunes of Saudi Arabia with six stage wins in seven specials.
Quintero can break the records of 10 victories in a single edition, set by Pierre Lartigue in 1994.