Qatar Rally Al-Attiyah takes the lead after Dakar prologue
Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah won the prologue to the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia on Saturday as last year’s runner-up in the overall standings got off to a good start in his attempt to claim a fourth victory in the event. endurance.
Toyota Hilux driver was 12 seconds faster than three-time Spanish winner Carlos Sainz, driving the electric Audi RS Q e-tron, in stage 1A of the 19 km timed sprint before a 595 km link between Jeddah and Ha’il.
South African Brian Baragwanath was third in a Century Racing buggy.
Audi – with defending champion and 14-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel joining Sainz and Swede Mattias Ekstroem in the squad – is looking to become the first manufacturer to win the Dakar with an electrified powertrain.
Peterhansel was ranked 14th in the car category after the prologue, one minute and 12 seconds behind the pace, with Ekstroem 15th.
“We ran for 20 km and started the race. We are very careful and keep an eye on all parameters, but the car is fun to drive,” said Peterhansel.
“The car is good for crossing the dunes, which is also very good.
Sébastien Loeb, nine times world rally champion, finished fifth for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team on dirt tracks and small dunes.
The top 10 in the prologue car category can choose their starting position in the top 10 for Sunday’s stage 1B, with Al-Attiyah having the final say on his start.
In the motorcycle category, Australian Daniel Sanders led the way for the Gas Gas works team with Chilean Pablo Quintanilla second.
The Dakar, run entirely in Saudi Arabia for the third time and counting 409 vehicles at the start, is in its 44th edition.
The annual rally started in 1978 as a race from Paris to Dakar, the Senegalese capital, but moved from Africa to South America for safety reasons in 2009.
One of the most dangerous and grueling events in motorsport, the rally moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.
(Report by Alan Baldwin in London, edited by Christian Radnedge)