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What Dakar Day 3 Report
Where Al Salamiya, Saudi Arabia
When Monday 8 January 2024
Community International

Toyotas take day, win overall as Branch leads bikes

Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk’s South African built Toyota Hilux moved into the Dakar car lead while Botswana’s former multiple South African Cross Country champion Ross Branch consolidated his bike lead for Hero on Monday. Brazilian Lucas Moraes and Armand Monleon’s Gazoo Toyota and Honda rider Pablo Quintanilla meanwhile took the respective car and bike stages as Dakar 2024 moved onto its third day over 438 km to Al Salamiya.

The car day, the first of this year’s two-day Marathon Stage started as something of a privateer Toyota Hilux benefit. French crews Guilaume de Mevius and Xavier Panseri, and former Le Mans winner Romain Dumas and Max Delfino led Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk. Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin’s Prodrive Hunter was the only interloper in an otherwise all-Toyota top six. Kazakhstani Dens Krotov and Kamil Zhiltzov and Moraes and Monleon’s Gazoo entry were next up.

Frenchmen Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier followed in the leading rear-drive South African Century from Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel’s Hunter. Of the South African entries, SA rookies Saood Variawa and Francois Cazaletare’s Gazoo Hilux, Gareth Woolridge and Boyd Dreyer’s M-Sport Ranger Guy Botterill and Brett Cummings in another Gazoo Hilux followed in 13th, 15th, and 17th. Veteran Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy’s Gazoo Hilux sat 23rd. Hennie de Klerk and Juan Möhr’s TreasuryONE Hilux meanwhile enjoyed a better day.

Dumas was into the lead from de Mevius and Moraes by mid-distance. Overall leaders Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz, and Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist’s Audis and Al Attiyah chased ahead of a just as fast changing order behind. Moraes continued his charge to move ahead from Dumas, Sainz and Al Attiyah at 310 km after de Mevius hit trouble and dropped back. Under attack from Eriksson, Moraes benefited late leader Al Attiyah suffering a puncture as he held on to take his maiden Dakar day win by 15 seconds from Eriksson, a resurgent Al Rajhi, Attiyah, Dumas and Sainz.

Serradori held on to seventh and the 4×2 win for Century ahead of Peterhansel, Victor Zala and Paulo Fiuza’s Mini, and Martin Prokop and Victor Chyka’s Ford Raptor. Of South African interest, Gazoo Hilux quartet, de Villiers bounced back to a provisional 16th Seth Quintero 18th, Variawa 21st and Botterill 32nd. Ford men, Woolridge was 28th and Nani Roma 33rd. Wei Han’s position was unknown due to a transponder issue, but he popped up 19th and best of the Red-Lined REVO+ entries. Teammate Aliyyah Koloc was 40th. Hennie de Klerk continued to progress around 43rd. Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer’s Century CR-7T did not start as the team awaited parts.

Overall, the ever-consistent Yazeed Al Rajhi’s SA-built Toyota now has a slender 29-second overall lead over the equally cunning Sainz and his Audi teammate Erikson. Day winner Moraes is up to fourth in the best of the Gazoo Hiluxes from Al Attiyah, Peterhansel and RWD leader Serradori’s Century in seventh. Gazoo four Quinteiro, de Villiers, Variawa and Botterill lie 11th, 14th, 17th, and 18th. NWR Ford duo Nani Roma is 19th, Woolridge 31st. Wei Han’s Red-Lined sits 26th, Aliyyah Koloc 36th and Hennie de Klerk was headed towards 52nd.

It was a competitive day on two wheels in too with the order up front also fluid throughout. American Mason Klein made up for a tough Day 2 aboard his Kove to lead Branch on his Hero, Argentine Kevin Benavides’ KTM, US rider Skyler Howes Honda Spaniard Joan Barreda’s Hero and Czech KTM privateer Martin Michek.

Chilean Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda then bounced into the lead from Klein, Barreda, Benavides, Branch and Frenchman Adrien van Beveren on another Honda. South African champion Bradley Cox sat 14th and third in R2 on his BAS KTM, compatriot Charan Moore 35th and Zimbabwean Ashley Thixton 39th on their Husqvarnas, with SA KTM men Ronald Venter 57th and Malle Moto rider Stuart Gregory 68th.

Although under pressure throughout, Quintanilla held on to win from Barreda, Benavides, Brabec, Branch and van Beveren. Cox was embroiled in a battle with the bikes around him through the day and emerged 26th in the end while Moore rode home 31st and Thixton a fine 39th, while Venter sat 66th and Gregory 80th.

Overall, Ross Branch and his Hero opened up his lead to just over three minutes over Honda quartet, Chilean rider Jose Florimo, Ricky Brabec, Pablo Quintanilla, and Adrien van Beveren with Kevin Benavides’ KTM sixth. Bradley Cox sits 22nd overall and seventh in a close fought R2 race, Charan Moore 27th and 12th in R2, Ashley Thixton 40th, Ronald Venter 71st and Stuart Gregory 77th.

With service limited to two hours, competitors headed into the desert to overnight at a remote bivouac before taking on the balance of the 299 km of the Marathon Stage to Al Hofuf, Tuesday.

Issued on behalf of Dakar 2024 Daily News

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