Thursday marked the start of the 48-hour Chrono stage, in which drivers have to complete a distance of 549km over two days. Aware of the risks they could face, many took it easy at the start of the stage to ensure they arrived safety at one of the seven camps at 4pm local time, when the day’s action would be halted.
However, drama struck overall leader Al-Rajhi at the 51km mark when he suffered a serious accident in one of the dunes, severely damaged his Toyota Hilux.
It was reported on Dakar’s website that Al-Rajhi was already returning to the start of the special, suggesting that he has given all hope of taking part in the remainder of the day’s proceedings.
He would be allowed to start Stage 7 on Sunday as long as his Hilux has been repaired and complies with all the safety rules stipulated by the FIA.
Even if the Saudi manages to get his car up and running, he has lost his best chance of securing a maiden victory in the world’s most prestigious rally-raid.
Al-Rajhi’s troubles have handed the overall lead to Audi driver Carlos Sainz Sr, who jumped Prodrive’s Nasser Al-Attiyah in the rankings at the beginning of the stage.
More to follow