2024 Dakar Rally: Loeb salvages Dakar with Stage 12 win

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Credit: Eric Vargiolu/DPPI/Red Bull Content Pool

The twelfth and final stage of the forty-sixth Dakar Rally took place Friday with a short sprint in Yanbu. With how short the leg was at just 175 kilometres in Selective Sections, not much could really be done for those too far back in the overall to have a shot at the victory, so the most they could do was at least go out with a stage win.

Sébastien Loeb was one of these cases as a disastrous Stage #11 doomed his chances of catching Carlos Sainz in the overall, dropping him to third and over an hour and forty minutes back. While he held off Guillaume de Mévius for the Stage #12 win by five minutes, it was not enough to overtake him for second and certainly nowhere near getting close to Sainz. Regardless, he ends the rally with an Ultimate-leading five stage wins.

“It’s finally a podium for us, so I would say it’s not so bad when you look to yesterday when we are sitting on a stone and waiting for the truck. At the end, it’s not too bad,” Loeb stated. “I think our chance against Audi were quite small when you see the stages we had and they were driving two cars together and so on. Yeah, we tried. We lost the second place. We are third, but finally at the finish line so not too bad.”

Others came up just short in their pursuits. Alexandre Giroud defeated Manuel Andújar for the stage win by fifteen seconds, but he was unable to prevent Andújar from killing his hopes of a third straight Dakar as he entered Friday trailing by eight minutes. Likewise, defending Rally2 winner Romain Dumontier finished runner-up and a minute ahead of the fifth-placed Harith Noah, though he would have needed to make up five more minutes to repeat.

Jérôme de Sadeleer beat Xavier de Soultrait for the final spot on the SSV stage podium, though only by twenty-four seconds and thus failed to crack his two-and-a-half-minute advantage. De Soultrait’s Sébastien Loeb Racing team-mate Florent Vayssade scored his first stage win on four wheels.

Although most overall winners were virtually decided, the biggest development came in Challenger. Mitch Guthrie went into Friday with a 25:07 gap on Cristina Gutiérrez; given there have been closer battles elsewhere including every FIM category only for a lead change to not occur, all he really needed to do was complete the stage without issue. Unfortunately, that did not happen for him as mechanical troubles plagued him at both the start and end, which his fellow Red Bull driver capitalised on.

“Did not go as we wanted. Tough, tough day,” said Guthrie. “We were right in the beginning of the stage and lost all power just on a straightaway. Kellon (Walch) and I hopped out and turbo hose just came off. Not a big deal, but it was really, really tough to get in there. Everything was hot. It was way back up in there. Took us about 25 minutes to get a hose clamp on there and get everything back going. From there, we pushed on. We knew it would be really close. We had a 25-minute lead going into the stage so pushed hard and then about thirty kilometres from the finish, the gearbox let go on us. Not sure what happened there. Tough day.

“We got towed to the finish so we still got second in the rally but it feels like last place with it going this way. Definitely sucks. Going to keep our heads high. That’s racing, but tough one to swallow. We gave it everything, Kellon did amazing, team did great, just not our day today.”

Stage #12 might have been a short leg on the very last day, but not everyone reached the finish. Eugenio Amos flipped his Toyota Hilux six times on a straightaway just moments after beginning the stage. Sainz’s team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel retired with an engine failure.

The Checkered Flag will produce individual reports for each of the eleven classes over the rest of January. Stay tuned.

Stage #12 winners

Ultimate (T1)203Sébastien Loeb*Bahrain Raid Xtreme1:39:41
Stock (T2)500Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body2:37:06
Challenger (T3)318Marcelo GastaldiBBR Motorsport1:55:22
SSV (T4)405Florent Vayssade*Sébastien Loeb Racing2:00:57
Truck (T5)602Aleš Loprais*InstaForex Loprais Praga Team1:56:41
RallyGP47Kevin Benavides*Red Bull KTM Factory Racing1:48:40
Rally241Diego LlanosXraids Experience1:51:54
Malle Moto96Tobias EbsterKini Rally Racing Team1:58:14
Quad172Alexandre GiroudDrag’on Raly Team2:05:14
Classic768Carlos Santaolalla*Factory Tub15 points
Mission 10001030Jordi Juvanteny*KH7-Ecovergy Team25 points
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Overall winners

Ultimate (T1)204Carlos SainzTeam Audi Sport48:15:18
Stock (T2)500Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body78:43:58
Challenger (T3)306Cristina Gutiérrez*Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team53:59:47
SSV (T4)411Xavier de Soultrait*Sébastien Loeb Racing56:37:43
Truck (T5)601Martin Macík Jr.*MM Technology54:34:48
RallyGP9Ricky BrabecMonster Energy Honda Rally Team51:30:08
Rally220Harith Noah*Sherco TVS Rally Factory Team54:24:44
Malle Moto96Tobias EbsterKini Rally Racing Team58:17:00
Quad174Manuel Andújar7240 Team64:16:53
Classic768Carlos Santaolalla*Factory Tub820 points
Mission 10001030Jordi Juvanteny*KH7-Ecovergy Team180 points
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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