Dakar 2022, Stage 1: Al-Attiyah eases to win, disaster for Audi

Toyota driver Nasser Al-Attiyah cruised to victory in the opening stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally, as Audi endured a disastrous day in Saudi Arabia with its electric RS Q e-tron challenger.

For the first half of the 333km special near Ha’il in Saudi Arabia, Al-Attiyah came under serious pressure from the three Audis, with the German marque’s lead runner Stephane Peterhansel sitting just six seconds behind him after the first 120km.

However, Audi’s challenge began to unravel en route to the next waypoint, with 14-time Dakar champion Peterhansel the first driver to drop out of contention after suffering heavy damage to his RS Q e-tron in an accident.

With the rear axle broken and the left-rear suspension taking a big hit, the Frenchman has been waiting for more than four hours for assistance trucks to arrive to repair the damage.

But Audi’s troubles didn’t end there as Sainz soon lost more than two hours in search of a tricky checkpoint near the end of the stage, having already dropped six minutes behind the leaders with unrelated issues in the middle part of the day.

With Mattias Ekstrom also falling behind in the third Audi as the stage neared its conclusion, Al-Attiyah was able to extend his advantage at the front in the leading Toyota, eventually claiming victory by a healthy margin of 12m44s.

Audi’s troubles also allowed rally legend Sebastien Loeb to leap to second position in the overall rankings, leading the charge for the Prodrive-run Bahrain Raid Xtreme team.

Loeb and Al-Attiyah were driving together in the latter part of the stage and were the only two frontrunners to cross the correct checkpoint at the first time of asking. This allowed the duo to build a sizeable advantage after the opening stage, with their nearest challenger Martin Prokop finishing over 10 minutes behind in the Benzina Ford.

#200 Team Audi Sport: Stéphane Peterhansel, Edouard Boulanger, crash

#200 Team Audi Sport: Stéphane Peterhansel, Edouard Boulanger, crash

Photo by: A.S.O.

Lucio Alvarez, (Overdrive Toyota), Vladimir Vasilyev (VRT BMW) and Sebastian Halpern (X-Raid Mini) were next up in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Giniel de Villiers finished seventh in a strong first full stage for the factory Toyota team.

Jakub Przygonsk (Orlen Mini), Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive Toyota) and five-time bikes winner Cyril Despres (GPX Peugeot) rounded out the top 10.

2014 event winner Nani Roma (Prodrive) was classified 23rd after losing a huge chunk of time with navigational issues of his own, three places ahead of the top Audi of Ekstrom.

Sainz is provisionally classified in 32nd place, having finished the stage 2h07m down on winner Al-Attiyah.

Toyota driver Henk Lategan had yet to finish the stage at the time of writing after suffering a puncture at the 142km mark.

Stage 1 results:

Pos # Driver/co-driver Team Time Gap
1 201

N. AL-ATTIYAH (QAT)

M. BAUMEL (AND)

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING 03:30:53  
2 211

S. LOEB (FRA)

F. LURQUIN (BEL)

BAHRAIN RAID XTREME 03:43:37 00:12:44
3 209

M. PROKOP (CZE)

V. CHYTKA (CZE)

BENZINA ORLEN TEAM 03:53:32 00:22:39
4 222

L. ALVAREZ (ARG)

A. MONLEON (ESP)

OVERDRIVE TOYOTA 03:58:35 00:27:42
5 208

V. VASILYEV (RAF)

O. UPERENKO (LVA)

VRT TEAM 03:59:51 00:28:58
6 223

S. HALPERN (ARG)

B. GRAUE (ARG)

X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM 04:00:30 00:29:37
7 207

G. DE VILLIERS (ZAF)

D. MURPHY (ZAF)

TOYOTA GAZOO RACING 04:04:26 00:33:33
8 203

J. PRZYGONSKI (POL)

T. GOTTSCHALK (DEU)

ORLEN TEAM 04:12:44 00:41:51
9 205

Y. AL RAJHI (SAU)

M. ORR (GBR)

OVERDRIVE TOYOTA 04:14:33 00:43:40
10 221

O. TERRANOVA (ARG)

D. OLIVERAS CARRERAS (ESP)

BAHRAIN RAID XTREME 04:20:20 00:49:27
11 218

Y. SEAIDAN (SAU)

A. KUZMICH (RAF)

X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM 04:22:26 00:51:33
12 204

N. ROMA (ESP)

A. HARO BRAVO (ESP)

BAHRAIN RAID XTREME 04:49:27 01:18:34
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