Anybody thinking that Stage 10 of the 2024 Dakar Rally would provide the convoy with an easy day was sorely mistaken. The stage distance may have been under 400 kilometres but there was still plenty of challenges on the loop around the AlUla bivouac. The primary concern for competitors on four wheels was avoiding punctures, but that was easier said than done.
Story of Stage Ten: Rocks are back on the menu
The top of the leaderboard of the Ultimate class may not look that different after Stage 10, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Race leader Carlos Sainz needed to borrow three tyres off fellow Audi Team Sport driver Mattias Ekström or he could have ended up waiting hours on the stage for his support truck to arrive. The assistance offered to Sainz underlines the importance of teamwork at the Dakar, explained by third Audi RS Q e-tron driver Stéphane Peterhansel below…
“Today was a little bit more complicated than what we expected. Lots of drivers had punctures. We started with two punctures really quickly so this why we were not so fast. At the end Mattias (Ekström) arrived to Carlos (Sainz) because Carlos had three punctures and Mattias gave Carlos some wheels. Without these wheels for sure Carlos would be waiting a long time for the truck. That’s why it’s good to have three cars in the race.” – Stéphane Peterhansel
Despite troubles of his own, second placed Sébastien Loeb was able to cut Sainz’s lead by seven minutes on today’s 371-kilometre stage. The Prodrive Hunter man may have reduced the gap to even less than the current 13m22s if he hadn’t run into complications while changing his wheels.
“We had a problem with the lift of the car and we had two punctures. [To change the wheels] we had to climb among the rocks to find a way to be able to lift a rear tyre. I guess we lost about 15 minutes for this.” – Sébastien Loeb
“We had two slow punctures and then 10k from the finish line the car just shut down. It was a problem with the fuel pressure so we reset the car and got it going again. We’re still third overall and still hanging in there.” – Lucas Moraes
Finishing the stage between Loeb and Sainz was the Astara machine driven by Laia Sanz. The Spaniard is 16th overall with two stages left to race in Saudi Arabia.
“It was a difficult stage and for us it was even more complicated because we tried a different setting on the rear damper this morning and it didn’t work at all. We got two punctures after 30k and after that I just had to drive completely slowly to get to the finish. It was another frustrating day.” – Giniel de Villiers
Defending Ultimate class champion Nasser Al-Attiyah did not make the start of Stage 10 after announcing his retirement from this year’s rally last night. A succession of mechanical issues had plagued the Qatari’s Prodrive Hunter during the second week of the rally.
There’s now just two stages standing between Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver Mitch Guthrie Jr. and glory in the Challenger class. Guthrie Jr.’s lead may now be under half an hour but he’s still got a sizeable cushion to take on the road to Yanbu.
“It was a little rough at the beginning, we got a puncture early but I think just about everybody did today. It wasn’t a good way to start. Then we upped the pace as we went until we started to lose the brakes about 100k from the end. We managed that until the finish line.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.
Cristina Gutiérrez occupies second spot in the Challenger race and if she holds this until the overall finish line it will be her best ever result at the Dakar. What a way to sign off from the Challenger class as she prepares to take on the 2025 Dakar in the Ultimate category!
“The stage was not very good for us. We had two punctures in the first 200k so that forced me to slow down a lot. I think lots of people had problems today so we will check the times to see where we are.” – Cristina Gutiérrez
The battle for the last remaining podium spot in the Challenger class looks set to go down to the wire. Chaleco López, Rokas Baciuška and Austin Jones are all still in with a shout for ending up in the medal positions.
“It was another day in the dust for us. Now there’s only two stages left to race but nothing will be easy. I think tomorrow might be the most difficult stage of the entire rally with even more stones.” – Rokas Baciuška
Saudi Arabian driver Dania Akeel may not be able to match her previous Top 10 result at this Dakar but she’s determined to cross that finish line on Red Sea’s shoreline.
It was another good day for Honda in the Bike race as they locked out the podium on Stage 10, led home by overall leader Ricky Brabec. Getting closest to the Honda trio on the loop around the AlUla bivouac was Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing rider Daniel Sanders.
“I had a very slow start with my body still in pain from yesterday. I struggled until the refuel and after that I took it easy, focusing on the navigation. I feel like I nailed a couple of notes that some people missed and maybe that’s helped me to claw back some time. I’m happy to bounce back for once.” – Daniel Sanders
A couple minutes back from Sanders on Stage 10 came 2023 FIM World Rally-Raid Championship winner Luciano Benavides on his Husqvarna.
“It was a good day. We had 370k today with rocky terrain, canyons and also sandy parts. I think I did a good job making it to the end because it was super easy today to have a crash.” – Luciano Benavides
Defending Dakar champion Kevin Benavides and fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Toby Price have identified tomorrow’s long stage as their last realistic chance to get amongst the Honda riders up front.
“Tomorrow we have 480 kilometres so that will be a long one. Today I think we were fifth fastest so we should have a good starting position for tomorrow.” – Kevin Benavides
Tomorrow’s penultimate stage sets a timed route of 480 kilometres between AlUla and Yanbu. Stage 11 will have extreme distance, dangerous rocks and a host of navigation puzzles to solve. If a successful attack is coming from the chasing pack then it’s now or never!