2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Honda overtakes Hero, Sebastian Loeb wins his 24th Dakar stage and more
The day comprised a 332km liaison and a 299km special stage, demanding not only speed but also strategic navigation from the competitors. Following Stage 3's demanding 733 km journey, Stage 4 maintained the rally's rigorous pace taking the competitors from Al Salamiya to Al-Hofuf. This stage was pivotal in shaping the overall standings across various categories – bikes, cars, quads, and trucks – with notable performances marking the day's events such as Honda’s Ignacio Cornejo taking the lead in Bikes, Sebastian Loeb narrowly beating Nasser Al Attiyah and Yazeed Al Rajhi in Cars category, and Manuel Andujar beating Marcelo Medeiros and Alexandre Giroud in Quads.
2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Bikes
Celebrating his 35th birthday, Red Bull KTM’s Kevin Benavides set off first, benefiting from time bonuses, but faced intense competition. Early in the stage, Hero MotoSports’ Branch led at the first intermediate point, with a narrow margin over Honda’s Ignacio Cornejo. However, the dynamics shifted in the second part of the Special Stage. The lead in the race saw several changes. Cornejo, showing remarkable pace, overtook Branch, who encountered a twisted handlebar due to a crash, causing him to lose precious time and his overall lead of 3 minutes 11 seconds. Cornejo's performance led him to his second stage win of this edition and his eighth Dakar stage victory overall. Kevin Benavides, despite accumulating bonuses as the opener, couldn't surpass Cornejo's time. The day concluded with Cornejo leading, significantly altering the overall rankings and setting a competitive tone for the remainder of the rally.
2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Hero MotoSports at Dakar
Competition is getting closer as seen today by Cornejo overtaking Ross Branch for the overall lead. Branch had an incident which resulted in a twisted handlebar, and thus finished fourth trailing by 4 minutes and 26 seconds. Ross Branch is now second in the overall rankings but just 1 minute and 15 seconds behind. Joan Barreda Bort was right in the mix of the top contenders finishing 8th, and maintaining his 12th position in the overall rankings.
Ross Branch talked about his crash saying, “Yeah, I thought I’d try bent-style handlebars today! No, really it was a rough day for me, one of the days I’d rather forget. I crashed after 40km just trying to look at the roadbook and I hit a rock. Then I crashed again twenty kilometres before the finish just going into the dunes. It was a bit of camel grass hidden in the sand and that threw me over the handlebars. But I’m ok and the bike is repairable. I don’t think I lost too much time. I’m not too sure what’s happening behind me. We don’t know what happened at the refuelling point, there was nobody coming, so we’ll just have to get back to the bivouac and fix the bike for tomorrow.”
2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Indians at Dakar
Harith Noah lost some time today and finished 21st, down from 17th where he started. The Sherco TVS Rally Factory rider, fortunately, maintained his overall ranking of 18th. Harith took to social media to talk about the day, saying, “I am one step closer and one step further than last year to reaching the finish at the Dakar Rally after completing Stage 4 today. Was not my day, very rough and broken tracks today. Felt uncomfortable and my head was not working in sync with the roadbook”.
2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Cars
An intense competition unfolded with a mix of drama for Cars today. The day began with Toyota Gazoo’s Lucas Moraes, fresh from his historic win the previous day, leading the pack, aiming to close the 9-minute 17-second gap with the overall leader Yazeed Al Rajhi of Overdrive Racing. Meanwhile, Al Rajhi continued his strong performance, maintaining his position at the top of the general rankings. Nasser Racing’s Nasser Al Attiyah, a 5-time Dakar winner, quickly made his presence felt. He led the stage at various points, showcasing impressive speed.
The day's climax saw a thrilling twist as Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) clinched the stage win, marking his 24th Dakar success. His victory added to the diverse list of winners in this edition. Al Attiyah, despite leading for substantial portions of the stage, finished third, narrowly beaten by Yazeed Al Rajhi. This development intensified the contest for the top positions, with Al Rajhi's consistent performance keeping him at the top of the overall rankings. When asked about the stage, Nasser Al Attiyah said, “It was not easy. We just tried to manage the speed. It wasn’t easy for navigation. We didn’t want any punctures or anything because we needed to get the car to the bivouac to get everything ready for tomorrow. I’m happy to be here. We are learning about our new car and we’ll see, because it’s not easy, the stage was really fast and a lot of problems have happened, but now I think step-by-step we can get back to the top”.
2024 Dakar Rally Stage 4: Quads
For quads, the dynamics of the race shifted significantly. Taguatar Racing’s Marcelo Medeiros, initially a strong contender, faced a challenging day, losing time and slipping from the top position in the general rankings. Despite briefly leading during the stage, Medeiros grappled with setbacks, ultimately losing ground. Meanwhile, Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha Racing - SMX - Drag'on), the double title holder, surged back into contention after a reserved start in the earlier stages. Giroud's strategic comeback and consistent performance placed him closely behind the new leader, Manuel Andujar (7240 Team). Juraj Varga, the previous leader in the general rankings, encountered difficulties, resulting in a substantial time deficit by the end of the stage. Andujar capitalised on the day's opportunities, claiming victory in this stage, his ninth in the Dakar. This triumph not only marked Andujar's return to the winner's circle but also propelled him to the forefront of the general rankings, benefiting from Varga's struggles and securing a notable advantage in the overall standings.
Stage 4 of the 2024 Dakar Rally was marked by intense competition and strategic navigation across various categories. Honda's Ignacio Cornejo led in bikes, while Sebastien Loeb secured his 24th Dakar stage win in cars. Manuel Andujar triumphed in quads, amidst significant shifts in rankings. Now we wait for tomorrow where a 645km-long Stage 5 awaits the competitors including a 118km dunes-only Special Stage and a 527km Liasion.