Drama in the desert for Sainz, Al Attiyah and a Hero bike win
Tuesday’s sandy 338 km fourth Dakar stage around Al Artawiya was the regular story of dunes, punctures and challenges on the road. But the drama overflowed in the stewards’ office, when both the day’s winner and the overall leaders among the cars got away relatively lightly after transgressions on the day.
Day winner Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz were rapped on the knuckles for an offence that would once have seen them demoted from Sainz’s 40th and a historic first alternative energy petrol-electric car win for Audi’s RS Q e-Tron quattro. The Spaniards were caught speeding and fined R6,750 for their efforts. Sainz and Cruz had fought with South African Toyota Gazoo Hilux duo Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings, who led most of the way, only to end 38 seconds adrift in second.
It was a good day for Audi with all three RS Q e-Trons in the top five. Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger came in third a further minute behind. Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist’s Audi followed fourth-placed Nani Roma in the first of the BRX Hunters. None of the above are in a strong overall position however, but the following four Proudly South African Toyota Hiluxes home are all very much remain in the overall running.
Local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr came home sixth ahead of factory Gazoo crews, South Africans Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy and overall leaders Nasser Al Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel. Ever-consistent Argentine privateers Luciano Alvarez and Araman Monelon were tenth. It was not a good day for second man overall Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s BRX Hunter. They lost over half an hour with punctures and drive issues on their Hunter.
Talking of the overall chase, there was huge drama when leader Al Attiyah was handed a suspended disqualification from the race and a R90,000 fine. After a data logger was found disconnected on their Hilux. Like Sainz’s speeding fine, Attiyah’s penalty ultimately proved a slap on the wrist, but the runaway car leaders are now on probation for the rest of the race.
Loeb’s travails were not enough to cost him the overall second place. Now over 37 minutes behind Attiyah, they are under pressure from behind. Hilux trio Alvarez, de Villiers in spite of a 5 minute Monday penalty for bumping a biker, and Al Rajhi are now all down to within 10 minutes of the WRC legend. Russian Vladimir Vasiliyev’s BMW also within striking distance in seventh. Today’s top five finishers meanwhile sit well out of the overall top ten following all their earlier challenges.
Of the other South African car crews, Shameer Variawa and Danie Stassen’s Gazoo Hilux came home 19th with Century CR6 crews Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer 20th and Chris Visser and Rodney Burke 29th. SA navigator Ryan Bland and Daniel Schroder’s WCT Red-Lined VK50 was 40th, Taye Perry reading notes for Cyril Despres’ Peugeot 3008 is 42nd and Ernest Roberts and Henry Kohne’s Century 43rd. Schalk Burger and Henk Janse van Vuuren’s Century hit trouble early on today.
It was also a day of firsts on two wheels as Portugal’s Joaquim Rodrigues took both his and bike maker Hero’s first ever Dakar day victories. That after early leader Daniel Sanders’ Gas Gas dropped to fifth behind KTM men Toby Price and super-rookie Mason Klein, and Skyler Howes’ Husqvarna late in the day. Andrew Short’s Yamaha was sixth from Ricky Brabec’s Honda, Kevin Benavides and Mattias Walkner’s KTMs and Yamaha men Addrian van Beveren and Botswana's Ross Branch in tenth.
Of the other Southern Africans, brilliant rookie Bradley Cox’s KTM was a fine fourteenth, Aaron Mare 18th and Charan Moore 44th. Botswana’s John Kelly was 56th and Stuart Gregory 79th. Swazi Walter Terblanche came in 101st, Werner Kennedy 112th and Mozambican Paulo Oliveira 121st. Overall, Sam Sunderland keeps Gas Gas just four seconds ahead of van Beveren, Walkner, Howes and Sanders. Mare sits tenth, Branch 11th, Cox is up to 23rd and Moore 39th overall.
There was drama in the quads when leader Laisvydas Kancius retired. First and second on the day, Pablo Copetti, Alexandre Giroud now lead overall too. It was a day of Polish Can Am domination in the Side by Sides, where brothers Marek driving with Lukasz Lakaswiek and Michal Goczal and Szymon Gospodarczyk, and Aron Domzala and Maciej Marton did the 1-2-3. SA crew Geoff Minnitt and Siegfried Rousseau were still running, while Austin Jones still leads Rodrigo de Oliveira overall.
Red Bull duo Seth Quinterio and Denis Zenz beat overall leaders, Francisco Contardo and Pablo Vinagre and Sebastian Eriksson and Wouter Rosegaar’s Can Ams home in the UTVs. And it was another Russian Kamaz 1-2-3 in the trucks as Sotnikov beat Karginov, this time around, but Jan van Kasteren nicked a third for Iveco. The mighty Kamaz remain 1-2-3-4 in the overall standings with Sotnikov 12 minutes ahead out front.
Wednesday’s 465 km run from Al Qaysumah to Riyadh has a bit of everything from fast tracks to varying dune challenges and a rocky finish, said to be the pièce de résistance of Dakar 2022's first week.