Harith Noah is the first Indian to break in to the top 15 at Dakar.
Harith Noah is the first Indian to break in to the top 15 at Dakar.TVS Racing

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: One second separates Honda and Hero, Loeb gains on Sainz, Andujar gets penalised and more updates

We are into the second week of the 2024 Dakar, and the competition is as close as ever. We take a look at the proceedings of the Stage 7

The 2024 Dakar Rally has entered its second week, bringing forth a thrilling spectacle of competition and drama across various categories. Stage 7 took us from Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh to Al Duwadimi over a distance of 873km with a 483km special stage. From one-second differentials between leaders in the bikes class, where Ricky Brabec clings to a narrow overall lead over Ross Branch, to Sebastien Loeb's remarkable comeback in the cars category, narrowing the gap with Carlos Sainz, the stage presented a diverse range of narratives. Additionally, the quads and trucks categories featured intense battles, with Manuel Andujar facing a setback due to a penalty, and Martin Macik's commanding performance solidifying his lead. Let's delve into the intricacies of the Stage 7 action.

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: Bikes

In Stage 7, the action unfolded with notable developments and intense competition. Monster Energy Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren, the winner of Stage 6, led the pack, opening the road ahead of Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price and his Honda teammate Ricky Brabec, the overall leader. The day’s first move came with Ricky Brabec overtaking Toby Price. Later through the day, various riders, including Honda’s Pablo Quintanilla and Hero’s Ross Branch

At km 173, the race was neutralised for the fuel-up, and Ross Branch held the virtual lead over Ricky Brabec. Ignacio Cornejo climbed to third overall, creating a competitive atmosphere for the top spots. The battle continued in the second half, Brabec reclaiming the virtual lead, earning bonuses for being the rider opening the road. Red Bull KTM’s Kevin Benavides was also among the top runners, taking control of the special at 213km. At the last time check (460km), Cornejo held the fastest time, leading Kevin Benavides. In the end, Ignacio Cornejo clinched the special, securing his third stage win in the Dakar Rally and moving up to third in the overall rankings, pushing Adrien Van Beveren to fourth place. Ricky Brabec finished fifth and held on to the overall lead by a mere one-second margin over Ross Branch, highlighting the intense competition in the Bikes class. When asked about the day, Brabec said, “The day after a rest day is never easy. We started off this morning third, so it was a bit tricky. All the guys I wanted to beat were behind me, so it's been a tough day. I haven't had a rear brake since like kilometre 40 or 50, so it's been a slow day for me but, overall, I'm happy with how the day went. Not probably the result that I wanted to see, but I'm still 100% ready to go.”

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: Indians at Dakar

Before the start of Stage 7, Harith Noah caught a bad case of cold. Despite that, the Sherco TVS Rally Factory rider showed perseverance and finished the stage in 16th. Although he lost his way on the route and lost some time, Harith still maintains the 13th place in the overall rankings. “Hard day for me. Still suffering from a cold. Not easy to stay focused when your nose is dripping down. Got really lost once, and that cost me a lot of time. I am satisfied with the day under the circumstances”, Harith said on social media.

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: Cars

At the beginning of the stage, Audi Sport’s Carlos Sainz led the overall rankings, followed by his teammate Mattias Ekstrom and Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb. However, the landscape of the race changed when Ekstrom encountered mechanical issues at 47km, causing him to lose significant time and eventually require support from his crew. His troubles allowed Loeb to advance to second place overall, significantly closing the gap with Sainz.

As the race progressed, Toyota’s Seth Quintero initially showcased his speed by leading at various checkpoints, but it was his teammate Lucas Moraes who then took the lead. Despite opening the road, Loeb made a formidable push, eventually overtaking Moraes and finishing the stage with the fastest time. This effort marked Loeb's third win in this year's Dakar and his 26th overall, significantly reducing his deficit to Sainz in the overall standings to just 19 minutes. Sainz, despite losing time to Loeb, ensured he remained in a strong position overall. “We had a good stage. No big mistakes. The navigation was really tricky. We were the first car, so... We had to make the line, but sometimes it's better, because we were really concentrated on our job and I was pushing hard, trying to be very conscientious in the tricky navigation parts, and we did it very well,” Sebastian Loeb said after the stage.

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: Quads

The 2024 Dakar Rally has seen intense competition in the quad category, primarily featuring a riveting battle between Manuel Andujar (7240 Team / Dragon Rally Service) and Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha Racing-SMX-Drag'On), along with significant challenges posed by Marcelo Medeiros (Taguatar Racing Team) and Juraj Varga (Varga Motorsport Team).

Stage 7 intensified as Varga posted the fastest time at 39km, slightly ahead of Medeiros, while Giroud and Andujar struggled to find pace, falling behind. At 90km, Medeiros took the lead, indicating a potential shift in the race dynamics. Andujar, eventually regained his momentum, by the 213km mark, he had not only overtaken Giroud but also extended his virtual overall lead to over 21 minutes, showcasing his intent to clinch the title. In the latter stages, Andujar maintained his lead, consistently staying ahead of Giroud. At 427km, he was more than a minute clear of the Frenchman, seemingly on the verge of securing his second win in the Dakar. However, in a stunning twist, Andujar was penalised with a 15-minute penalty for missing a waypoint. This penalty reversed the day's fortunes, handing the victory to Giroud and significantly narrowing Andujar's lead in the overall ranking to just 6 minutes and 20 seconds.

2024 Dakar Rally Stage 7: Trucks

The 2024 Dakar Rally in the truck category has witnessed an impressive performance by Czech driver Martin Macik (MM Technology Team), especially in the 48h chrono stage. In this particular stage, Macik secured victory, claiming his fourth win this season. He holds a comfortable lead of over one and a half hours ahead of Ales Loprais (Instaforex Loprais Praga) in the overall rankings.

Mitchel Van Den Brink (Eurol Rallysport) led mid-way, at the 134km mark, he held a lead of 2 minutes and 32 seconds over Loprais and 3 minutes and 05 seconds over Macik. At 427km into the race, Macik seized the lead from Van Den Brink, holding the fastest time and extending his advantage to a minute and a half. The culmination of the race saw Martin Macik cross the finish line with the fastest time.

In summary, Stage 7 of the 2024 Dakar Rally delivered intense competition and unexpected turns across various categories. In the bikes class, Ricky Brabec maintains a slim one-second lead over Ross Branch, while Sebastien Loeb's impressive performance in the cars category narrows the gap with leader Carlos Sainz. Indians at Dakar, including Harith Noah, faced challenges but displayed resilience. The quads category witnessed a dramatic twist as Manuel Andujar, initially leading, received a 15-minute penalty, granting the stage win to Alexandre Giroud and reducing Andujar's overall lead. In the trucks class, Martin Macik's dominance continues, securing his fourth win and maintaining a substantial lead in the overall rankings. The Dakar Rally's second week promises more thrilling action and unpredictable outcomes.

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