With a commanding performance on day two, Sebastien Loeb won his first Dakar Rally stage win since 2019, and the first for the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme squad.
The nine-time World Rally Champion, whose best performance on the rally raid was second in a factory Peugeot in 2017, defeated Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah to cut the Qatari’s lead to 9m16s.
The second stage of the 44th edition ended up bypassing the Al Artawiyah bivouac, which was flooded following heavy rainstorms on Sunday, and instead finishing at the planned third stage bivouac of Al Qaisumah, which was originally planned as the first leg of the Marathon Stage – where no outside mechanical assistance is permitted and competitors are required to sleep overnight at the bivouac.
While the timed component of the stage remained unchanged, the teams had to navigate a good mix of fast sandy tracks and dune sections throughout the stage, with accurate navigation once again being a key factor.
Al-Attiyah was the first on the 210-mile course, followed by Loeb. Loeb seized the early lead through the first two waypoints, with the current leader effectively having to make tracks for those behind him.
After 37.28 miles, he had a lead of about 30 seconds, which grew to more than a minute at the halfway point of the stage. After catching Al-Attiyah, Loeb chose to follow the Toyota’s tracks before overtaking as the stage approached a difficult part near the end.
“It was a real match, Nasser was pushing very hard,” said Loeb.
“He was opening the road for the cars but still he was really fast, we had to push like in WRC for almost 340 km. It was exciting but it was a really tough fast rhythm.”
“At the end I caught him, so I was able to follow him through the dunes. It’s a bit easier when you are just behind a car and right at the end of the stage there were a lot of stones,” he added.
“I overtook him to avoid having a puncture – yesterday I had two, so it was important to finish the stage well.”
Loeb never looked back after that, increasing his lead to 3m28s by the finish to win his 15th Dakar stage, while Al-Attiyah maintained his overall lead.
After a dreadful start to the Dakar on Sunday, Audi had a much better day with all three RS Q e-trons displaying outstanding speed throughout the stage.
Carlos Sainz, a three-time Dakar winner who lost more than two hours on stage one due to serious navigational troubles and a puncture, set the third-best time, but he was 5m52s slower than Al-Attiyah.
Stéphane Peterhansel was fourth after seeing his prospects of a 15th triumph vanish on day one due to a broken rear axle, while Mattias Ekström, one of the stars of SS1, was a strong ninth.
Several crews that struggled on the first stage had a better day today, with Al-Toyota Attiyah’s teammate Henk Lategan setting the seventh-fastest time. Due to starting the stage with reduced tire pressures, the three-time South African Cross-Country Champion lost a wheel at SS1 following an early puncture.
Nani Roma and Orlando Terranova of Bahrain Raid Xtreme also had better luck on the way to Al Qaisumah, with Roma finishing fifth and Terranova 11th, despite losing three minutes in the second half of the stage.
Yazeed Al Rajhi of Overdrive Racing was sixth fastest following an exciting back-and-forth duel with Roma, who eventually freed and briefly overtook Peterhansel in the closing splits.
Lucio Alvarez is now third in the overall standings, 40 minutes behind leader Al-Attiyah, with de Villiers fourth and little under a minute behind the Overdrive Hilux. Vladimir Vasilyev is fifth in the VRT Team BMW X3, while Martin Prokop’s Orlen Team Ford Raptor RS Cross-Country has slipped three positions to sixth.
Dakar Rally 2022 Stage 2 (Ha’il – Al Qaisumah) top 10 results
1 Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) 3h25m00s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +3m28s
3 Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (Audi) +5m52s
4 Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger (Audi) +7m56s
5 Nani Roma/Alex Haro Bravo (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) +8m02s
6 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr (Overdrive Toyota) +8m41s
7 Henk Lategan/Brett Cummings (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +9m44s
8 Giniel de Villiers/Dennis Murphy (Toyota Gazoo Racing) +11m17s
9 Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist (Audi) +13m30s
10 Bernhard Ten Brinke/Sébastien Delaunay (Overdrive Racing) +15m36s