Mattias Ekström and Audi top Dakar Prologue as Al-Attiyah struggles

Mattias Ekström and Audi top Dakar Prologue as Al-Attiyah struggles

Mattias Ekström came out on top as Audi dominated in the opening prologue of the 46th edition of Dakar Rally, which is being held in the Saudi Arabian desert.

In the Prologue for the 2024 Dakar Rally, Audi was led to victory by former DTM and World Rallycross champion Mattias Ekstrom, while Nasser Al-Attiyah, the winner of the previous year event struggled to finish inside the top 10.

The racers got a glimpse of what they will encounter on their 7,891km/4903-mile adventure on roads, tracks and dunes, including a 4,727km/2937 miles special, on the opening 27km/16.8-mile loop, which had a combination of sandy and rocky terrain.

The Prologue which is a fixture of Dakar Rally over the years, served as a kind of qualifying session which will determine the starting positions for the first stage.

Ekström leveraged his rally racing background to his advantage and outperformed his rivals as he drove the Audi RS Q e-tron. Although the times recorded aren’t included in the overall rankings, the Swede overcame American Seth Quintero, who made a grand entrance into the Ultimate class to secure Toyota the second best time.

Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb finished third in Prologue and three seconds behind the benchmark in the Prodrive Hunter sponsored by Bahrain Raid Xtreme.

After seven previous attempts, Loeb is still seeking his first overall Dakar triumph. He set the same time as fourth-place Marcos Baumgart driving the Team X-entered Hunter. Baumgart’s brother Cristian finished fifth, six seconds behind loeb as Prodrive took three of the top five slots.

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Polish driver Krzysztof Holowczyc who was previously driving for the X-Raid Mini squad, made a strong comeback by finishing sixth in their John Cooper Work 4×4 after tying with Cristian Baumgart.

The second electric-powered Audi finished slightly behind in seventh place in the hands of 14-time champion Stephane Peterhansel, while the leading Overdrive Toyota driven by Lionel Baud came in eighth.

The top ten was rounded out by Century Racing’s Brian Baragwanath and Martin Propok, who is currently driving a Ford Raptor for the MP Sports / Benzina squad.

Five-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah had a slow start to this year’s event after finishing 12th, only a hair behind Guerlain Chicherit in the sister Overdrive Toyota.Despite starting first in today’s 27-kilometer test, the Qatari driver—who joined Prodrive this year after a lengthy career with Toyota—lost just a little over a minute behind Ekstrom.

In the bike category, Tosha Schareina led home Ross Branch and Daniel Sanders in the opening race of his maiden race as an official team rider. However, America’s Skyler Howes struggled as he finished a far-off 42nd after the prologue turned out to be devastating. The Monster Energy Honda rider lost his way through the AlUla canyons after getting caught up in a crash.

Now that the Prologue is over, drivers will embark on a 414-kilometer challenge on Saturday from Al-‘Ula to Al Henakiyah, which will take them over an unfamiliar terrain.

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