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Stage report

Dakar 2023: Loeb wins again on Stage 9, Sainz suffers major crash

World Rally legend Sebastien Loeb underlined his credentials in the 2023 Dakar Rally yet again with a conclusive victory on Stage 9, as Carlos Sainz suffered a major crash and Nasser Al-Attiyah extended his overall lead on Tuesday.

Driving for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, Loeb led a 1-2-3 result for the Prodrive Hunter on the 358km special between Riyadh and Haradh, with Teltonika Racing's Vaidotas Zala and GCK Motorsport driver Guerlain Chicherit rounding out the podium spots.

Loeb led early on over the gravel terrain that greeted competitors at the resumption of the rally-raid following a day's rest in the Saudi capital, with Chicherit following him closely behind in second.

After 123km Zala had leapfrogged both Chicherit and Loeb to grab the top spot, but Loeb struck back immediately afterwards to open up a 1m24s lead, before extending his advantage further as the terrain changed to a mix of sand and asphalt.

The Frenchman's margin at the finish line was 3m07s as he claimed an emphatic third stage victory of 2023 and 19th of his career.

Zala had to settle for second following Loeb's impressive run in the latter half of the stage, while Chicherit was classified another minute adrift in third in what was the most successful day for Prodrive, which supplies the Hunter to a number of teams in Dakar's top category.

Mattias Ekstrom brought some consolation for Audi with a fourth-place finish in Tuesday's special, some 7m21s behind stage winner Loeb, but the day's headlines were dominated by his teammate Sainz.

One of the two remaining Audi drivers after Stephane Peterhansel's withdrawal in the opening week, Sainz was involved in a major shunt just six kilometres into the stage when his car rolled upside down while tackling a dune. 

Sainz had initially looked set to withdraw from the event and was even on his way to hospital after reporting chest pains, only to change his mind midway through the journey and ask the helicopter to turn around.

Audi's assistance trucks were able to arrive on the scene of the accident and Sainz is now expected to complete the stage and salvage some result in what has been a fraught outing for both the Spaniard and his team.

 

Fifth place on the stage went to Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas in his Rebellion, with Jakub Pryzognski sixth in the X-raid Mini.

Giniel de Villiers was Toyota's top finisher in seventh, some eight minutes down on the time with which Loeb claimed the stage win.

Al-Attiyah also had a relatively underwhelming day as he finished nearly nine minutes off the top spot in his Toyota Hilux, just beating X-raid Mini's Sebastian Halpern and Overdrive driver Lucas Moraes in the top 10.

However, with Al-Attiyah's nearest challenger and teammate Henk Lategan losing nearly 40 minutes after stopping just 18km into the stage due to mechanical problems, the Qatari driver actually managed to extend what was already a substantial lead in the overall standings.

With the final five stages to run, Al-Attiyah now sits 1hr21m57s clear of his nearest challenger Moraes, with Loeb 1hr43m08s adrift in third position.

Lategan has dropped from second to fourth in the combined order, some three minutes adrift of Loeb, with de Villiers another 20 minutes behind in fifth.

Dumas holds a solid sixth place for Rebellion, with Martin Prokop (Benzina), Brian Baragwanath (Century), Wei Han (Hanwei) and Overdrive's Juan Cruz Yacopini provisionally completing the top 10.

Classification after Stage 9:

Position

Driver

Car

Time / gap

1

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Toyota

34hr19m20s 

2

Lucas Moraes

Toyota

+1hr21m57s

3

Sebastien Loeb

Prodrive

+1hr43m08s

4

Henk Lategan

Toyota

+1hr46m23s

5

Giniel de Villiers

Toyota

+2hr04m17s

6

Romain Dumas

Rebellion

+2hr25m51s

7

Martin Prokop

Benzina

+2hr45m36s

8

Brian Baragwanath

Century

+2hr48m06s

9

Wei Han

SMG +3hr32m15s

10

Juan Cruz Yacopini

Toyota

+3hr52m52s

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Previous article Dakar 2023: Loeb strikes back on Stage 8, Al-Attiyah maintains lead
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