Van Beveren and Loeb go on all-out attack

Dakar 2024 | Stage 9 | HAIL > ALULA
January 16 th 2024 - 17:14 [GMT + 3]


The expedition back to AlUla has surely brought back some memories. However, it was not a return to square one, because the situation has evolved considerably since the prologue. The return journey spared the competitors from the volcanic rocks, instead opting for the northern route from Al Duwadimi, which nevertheless shared some common ground with the previous visit. Over the majority of the 436-kilometre special, the riders, drivers and crews had to be doubly vigilant, by carefully riding or driving to avoid punctures on the rocky portions and then by paying extreme attention to reading the roadbook when faced with the wealth of tracks in front of them. The strongest at this game was Adrien Van Beveren, who was able to adapt his position of stage opener for most of the day in order to win in AlUla.

Extended highlights of Stage 9 presented by Aramco - #Dakar2024


Extreme endurance pushes the competitors to the limits in physical terms. The Dakar is also a motorsport race in which technical problems can have a hefty cost and where navigation difficulties call upon everyone’s grey matter, without forgetting, of course, riding skill, which can rarely make the difference on its own. To complete the canvas, strategy plays a primordial part, particularly when the horizon of the final finishing line is clearly in view. The countdown had already begun yesterday, with Adrien Van Beveren the butt of the joke which involved his rivals slamming on the brakes in order to set off well behind him today. The reaction of the man from North France, his pride wounded, was equal to his talent, even on terrain that is not best suited to him. He led the stage for much of the distance, navigating perfectly whilst maintaining a high pace, enabling him to regain his place on the provisional podium. Van Beveren has fulfilled part of the bargain, but he still needs to make up 11’16’’ to catch his Honda team colleague Ricky Brabec. The American was the main beneficiary on the day’s stage, because his starting position (7th) allowed him to make quick progress to AlUla and to increase his lead in the general rankings. As the wind shifted in his favour, the Californian also took advantage of the navigation mistakes made by Ross Branch, who he now leads by 7’09’’. In total, Brabec has not won a single stage, but has finished 2nd, like today, on four occasions, which could be the winning formula for the 2024 vintage. When studying the timesheets in the car category, it becomes clear that the name of Carlos Sainz does not appear at the top for the stage rankings but has been very much at the summit of the general rankings since the evening of the 48 HR Chrono stage. Today’s performance has not guaranteed him overall victory, but the strategy of driving the special in a convoy, protected by his team-mates Mattias Ekström and Stéphane Peterhansel, give the impression that he was the leader of the Audi clan. He has kept his nearest pursuer at a reasonable distance, at a point in the race where each stage is a giant step towards success. Sébastien Loeb readily admits that in his position of hunter, his strategic options are now reduced to all-out attack, with its inherent amount of risk. Today, the Frenchman won his fourth stage of the year (see Stat of the day) but flirted with danger because he had two punctures on the route to the finish, though he is still able to send a shiver down the spine of ‘El Matador’. With the conditions set fair, nothing seems impossible for the BRX Hunter driver, but the 20’33’’ which separate him from Sainz require him to drive very aggressively. Unlike his rival, he will have very little support from his team-mate Nasser Al Attiyah. The five times winner from Qatar, who had to exit the special for the second consecutive day due to mechanical problems, will start very far behind Loeb… in the best-case scenario.

Mitch Guthrie drove without such worries, because with a lead of approximately half an hour over Cristina Gutiérrez at the summit of his category, he was able to calmly watch Argentinean Nicolás Cavigliasso, assisted by his wife a Valentina Pertegarini, join the club of stage winners. Xavier de Soultrait, in the lead in the SSV category, can now also afford to adopt a strategy of controlling the race in light of the mishaps suffered by João Ferreira (see A crushing blow). In the truck race, Gert Huzink produced the best time on the special, but without worrying Martin Macík, who sits atop an almost two-hour lead over Aleš Loprais at the summit of the general rankings.

42 VAN BEVEREN Adrien (fra), Monster Energy Honda Team, Honda, Moto, Motul, FIM W2RC, action during the Stage 8 of the Dakar 2024 on January 15, 2024 between Al Duwadimi and Hail, Saudi Arabia
42 VAN BEVEREN Adrien (fra), Monster Energy Honda Team, Honda, Moto, Motul, FIM W2RC, action during the Stage 8 of the Dakar 2024 on January 15, 2024 between Al Duwadimi and Hail, Saudi Arabia © A.S.O./E.Vargiolu/DPPI


They are the thorn in the side of the leading teams, the crew who, edition after edition, prove to be the formidable outsiders in the rally’s caravan. In AlUla, Mathieu Serradori and Loïc Minaudier drove their Century into third place on stage 9, which was a first this year, with the podiums on the specials monopolised by Toyota, Audi and BRX. Their performance is even more remarkable given that the French duo is the only crew equipped with 2-wheel drive in the day’s top 15. Behind the wheel, Serradori produced his best result since his victory in 2020 on stage 8, the last to date to be achieved by a privateer. As a result, he climbs into sixth place in the general rankings, overtaking Guerlain Chicherit and Martin Prokop. Fifth position, occupied by Giniel de Villiers, is only 3’32’’ from his grasp. The Century Racing Factory Team duo is bidding a fond farewell to the CR6, before switching to a 4x4 in the guise of the South African manufacturer's latest model.


João Ferreira was the main man yesterday in the Challenger class. Following the shot across the bows of a broken steering rod on stage 1, the Portuguese driver was able to weather the storm. A worthy heir to the famous navigators of his homeland, the young 23-year-old official Can-Am driver managed to reach the promised land of the top 3 by the end of stage 8. With a little more than 7 minutes to make up on Xavier de Soultrait, the four remaining stages seemed more than sufficient to grab his first triumph on the Dakar. However, today, after 44 kilometres, for João it was all hands to the pump… his broken fuel pump to be precise, which seems to have sunken his hopes. He now finds himself one hour behind the general rankings leader and the voyage back to the top seems difficult because he now only has four tries at sailing for success in Yanbu. Lady luck has been cruel with the Portuguese driver.


With 9 titles in his first career in the WRC and 80 victories on legs of the world championship, Sébastien Loeb demonstrated his penchant for collecting successes. On devoting himself mainly to the rally-raid discipline, the man from Alsace did not change his ways and began by winning 4 stages on his debut on the Dakar in 2016 in Argentina and Bolivia. Today, he picked up the 27th stage win of his career out of 88 specials in 8 participations, including prologues. With a win percentage of 30.6%, he boasts the highest ratio at the bivouac.

W2RC: an FIA season with much promise
With the premature exit of reigning world runner-up Yazeed Al Rajhi in the Empty Quarter and the risk of not seeing world champion Nasser Al Attiyah at the start of stage 10, the points to be distributed in Yanbu to the two headliners of the 2023 season will be nil or negligible. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Moraes are currently in the best position to start their bid for the 2024 world title on the right foot. But nothing is decided yet, and above all it promises to be an extremely competitive season. No more than one month after the finish of the first round, the W2RC caravan will already have a date with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, a race won on its last three editions by Yazeed Al Rajhi, Stéphane Peterhansel and Nasser Al Attiyah. By the time they arrive in Yanbu, these three contenders will have made a worse start than the future leaders, who will be announced on 19th January. The desire for revenge will be simmering under the helmets of many, including some of the big shots, in the very near future!


The Dakar and family stories is a classic! The Marreau brothers were on the podium as early as 1980 in their 4L before winning the race in 1981 in their R20. The Loder brothers in their Class G and the Benaventes siblings in their Nissan Terrano are following suit, while the Zoll twins in their Porsche 924 are even closer-knit. Last year, it was the couple formed by Juan Morera and Lidia Ruba that won, before returning this year in a Porsche 959 replica. And they're not the only couple in the running, with France's Abrials and South Africa's Lovemores following in their footsteps this year. The Dakar Classic also acts as an intergenerational bridge, welcoming father-daughter duos like the Klaassens or father-son duos like the Botmas. But the prize goes to the truck belonging to the German Ruppert family. The Mercedes 1735 is driven by Christian and Ursula, supported by their son Matias. Strength in numbers rings true on the Dakar Classic!

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