Date: Sunday 10th January
Location: Ha’il > Sakaka
Length: 284km liaison + 453km special
With no mechanics or assistance available to the crews at Sunday night’s Bivouac, the crews tackled today’s stage, and will tackle tomorrow’s with whatever equipment they have on board and will have to rely on their own knowledge for repairs. This made today’s stage, the first of the second half of the 2021 Dakar Rally, a test of reliability as well as a gamble as those who were over-cautious lost valuable time to their rivals.
Yazeed Al Rajhi became the first Saudi to win a Dakar stage since the rally raid moved to the country last year. The Overdrive Toyota driver won by 48 seconds over Dakar-verteran Stephane Peterhansel.
X-Raid Mini JCW Team driver Peterhansel continues to lead the rally despite being yet to win a single stage on the 2021 test. Early on in stage seven, Peterhansel and his co-driver Edouard Boulanger came into some mechanical difficulties when a sharp impact bent the rim over a caliper. Placing second allowed the Frenchman to extend his overall lead to over eight minutes.
Peterhansel’s team-mate Carlos Sainz was first on the road out of the cars, thus rendering the Spaniard with a slight disadvantage. Sainz suffered from a puncture and missed a waypoint, but still put in a performance speedy enough to finish only one minute down on the stage leader Al Rajhi.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, who has been right on the tail of Peterhansel through the entire rally, lost two minutes over the stage to the X-raid Mini JCW Team driver in the overall standings.
Sebastien Loeb’s luck was starting to greatly wane as the competitors went into what is known as the ‘marathon stage’. Having earned the rest day yesterday, after spending over eight hours on Friday evening stranded in the desert, awaiting recovery, the Frenchman and his co-driver Daniel Elena had to wait again for assistance after a bearing broke only a few kilometres into the stage. The Bahain Raid Xtreme duo lost nearly two hours to the leaders and finished 42nd on the stage.
- Yazeed Al Rajhi / Dirk Von Zitzewitz – Overdrive Toyota – 04:21:59s
- Stephane Peterhansel / Edouard Boulanger – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 04:22:47s
- Carlos Sainz / Lucas Cruz – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 04:23:14s
Overall classification after Stage 7:
- Stephane Peterhansel / Edouard Boulanger – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 26:35:50s
- Nasser Al-Attiyah / Matthieu Baumel – Toyota Gazoo Racing – 26:44:43s
- Carlos Sainz / Lucas Cruz – X Raid Mini JCW Team – 27:17:56s
Ricky Brabec won the stage, but remained 15 minutes back from the overall lead. It was like a poisoned chalice for the American as he tried to close the gap to Joan Barreda, but pushed too hard and he will now act as primary pathfinder for everyone behind him tomorrow. He is likely to lose ground as those before him have.
Ross Branch has continued to impress through his 2021 campaign with the Botswana rider looking set for a podium position during the early stages of the test. However, his efforts to secure a podium were dampened after a big off at the 31 kilometre mark which saw the chain come off his Yamaha. Branch was visibly upset as he tried to repair his bike, and lost 40 minutes as a result. He finished the seventh stage in 28th place.
Britain’s Sam Sunderland has been consistent in his approach through this year’s Dakar, having finished no higher than fourth through each stage, he came fifth through stage seven. He now lies third in the overall standings, just over two minutes behind leader Monster Energy Honda Team 2021’s Jose Cornejo. Cornejo’s margin in the overall rankings is less than one second to Toby Price, after Price came seventh through the stage losing the overall lead.
Rookie Daniel Sanders scored a brilliant fifth place in the stage standings after catching Barreda and Brabec who were running up ahead.
Kevin Benavides suffered from a navigational error, which cost him 10 minutes on the stage and cost him the overall lead seeing the Argentine drop from first to fifth and Xavier De Souvrait moved up to fourth place overall and is now two and a half minutes off the lead.
Seth Quintero may have won yesterday’s stage in the Lightweights and became the youngest Dakar stage winner, but like many, he was disadvantaged in being the first on the road. He lost three and a half minutes at the start but was able to keep at a pace to remain only nine minutes off the overall lead.
Francisco Lopez fourth overall, after going well on the stage before stopping to help with an accident on the course – his time was given back at the Bivouac so he came to win the stage in his category. Stage two winner Salah Alsaif followed five minutes behind in second for the FN Speed Black Horse Team.
Kris Meeke led the stage in the opening kilometres but stopped on stage with severe mechanical issues which meant he was still in the desert come nightfall.
Monster Energy Can-Am team-mates Aron Domzala and Austin Jones have been embroiled in a friendly battle through the 2021 Dakar, and when stage seven began, they were 40 seconds apart in the overall standings. Domzala managed to pip Jones to the post by just shy of four minutes allowing the pole to take the lead from the American in the overall standings with Jones just two minutes behind.
In the trucks, it’s not surprising that the Kamaz-Master team are dominating proceedings. They hold a 1-2-3 in the stage and overall standings with Dmitry Sotnikov, Anton Shibalov and Airat Mardeev and their crews. Sotnikov won his fifth stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally, cementing his place at the top of the overall standings for the category.
Ales Loprais, who is the closest contender to the Kamaz trio in the overall standings, lost time during the stage due to a wheel catching fire on the road section, he now lies in fourth, one and a half hours behind leader Sotnikov.
- Ricky Brabec – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 04:37:44s
- Jose Cornejo – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 04:39:51s
- Skyler Howes – BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team – 04:40:03s
Overall after stage 7:
- Jose Cornejo – Monster Energy Honda Team 2021 – 28:51:31s
- Toby Price – Red Bull KTM Factory Team – 28:51:32s
- Sam Sunderland – Red Bull KTM Factory Team – 28:53:42s
- Francisco Lopez Contardo / Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre – South Racing Can-Am – 05:15:34s
- Saleh Alsaif / Oriol Vidal Montijano – FN Speed – Black Horse Team – 05:20:46
- Reinaldo Varela / Maykel Justo – Monster Energy Can-Am – 05:20:47s
Overall after stage 7:
- Aron Domzala / Maciej Marton – Monster Energy Can-Am – 32:30:33s
- Austin Jones / Gustavo Gugelmin – Monster Energy Can-Am – 32:32:33s
- Seth Quintero / Dennis Zenz – Red Bull Off-Road Team USA – 32:39:14s
- Dmitry Sotnikov / Ruslan Akhmadeev / Ilgiz Akhmetzianov – Kamaz-Master – 04:45:52s
- Airat Mardeev / Dmitriy Svistunov / Akhmet Galiautdinov – Kamaz Master – 04:49:15s
- Anton Shibalov / Dmitrii Nikitin / Ivan Tatarinov – Kamaz-Master – 04:54:14s
Overall after stage 7:
- Dmitry Sotnikov / Ruslan Akhmadeev / Ilgiz Akhmetzianov – Kamaz-Master – 29:12:10s
- Anton Shibalov / Dmitrii Nikitin / Ivan Tatarinov – Kamaz-Master – 29:58:06s
- Airat Mardeev / Dmitriy Svistunov / Akhmet Galiautdinov – Kamaz Master – 30:17:16s