Loeb eats into Sainz’s lead, drama for Ekstrom

Loeb made a low-key start to Sunday’s 483km test between Riyadh and Al-Duwadimi, but the nine-time World Rally champion was gradually able to make his way to the front, taking his third stage victory of the year with a margin of 7m06s over Toyota’s Lucas Moraes.

Sainz finished fourth behind Nasser Al-Attiyah on what was a relatively tough day for Audi, with Ekstrom stopping twice due to mechanical problems and Stephane Peterhansel having to sacrifice his own chances to come to the aid of the Swede.

It was Toyota newcomer Seth Quintero who set the early pace as the Dakar Rally resumed near the Saudi capital after a day’s rest, with the promising American leading Overdrive’s Guerlain Chicherit and team-mate Moraes in a Hilux 1-2-3.

Loeb was relatively slow off the line and lost over three minutes in the opening 39km alone, but he was showing signs of a comeback as the field neared the halfway mark en route to Al-Duwadimi.

Surging to third place by the fifth checkpoint on 213km, by when Moraes had snatched the lead of the rally, Loeb first picked off Quintero before surging past the Brazilian at the next checkpoint.

There was a brief threat from Century’s Mathieu Serradori in the next part of the stage after the Frenchman quickly jumped the Toyota duo, but Loeb was able to quickly build a buffer for himself en route to his second consecutive stage victory of 2024, and third overall.

Moraes was able to retake second position in his factory Hilux to secure a strong result for Toyota after both Serradori and Quintero dropped off the front near the end of the stage.

One of the big beneficiaries of their fall was reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, who also jumped Sainz just before the finish line to take a solid third in his Prodrive Hunter.

#204 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Carlos Sainz Sr., Lucas Cruz

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

#204 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Carlos Sainz Sr., Lucas Cruz

Fourth was still a reasonable result for Sainz after he had lost over six minutes at the very beginning of the stage, leaving him 17th at the first checkpoint of the day.

Chicherit and Serradori were eventually classified fifth and sixth, while Quintero dropped all the way down to eighth behind the X-Raid Mini of Vaidotas Zala.

With only five stages remaining, Dakar 2024 is now effectively a two-horse race between Sainz and Loeb, with the likes of Ekstrom, Peterhansel and Al-Attiyah all out of the running.

Audi driver Sainz continues to lead the 46th edition of Dakar with five stages left to run, but with a smaller lead of 19 minutes over Prodrive man Loeb.

Moraes is now third in the combined order ahead of two other Toyota drivers, Overdrive’s Guillaume de Mevius and factory team-mate Giniel de Villiers. The trio trail Sainz by more than an hour, meaning Toyota’s hopes of a third straight win in Dakar are effectively over.

Provisional classification after Stage 7 (Top 10 only):




Time / gap


Carlos Sainz




Sebastien Loeb




Lucas Moraes




Guillaume de Mevius




Giniel de Villiers




Martin Prokop




Mathieu Serradori




Guerlain Chicherit




Guy Botterill




Benediktas Vanagas



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