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Stage report

Dakar 2024, Stage 1: De Mevius takes shock win for Overdrive Toyota

Overdrive Toyota driver Guillaume de Mevius claimed an unlikely win in the first full stage of the Dakar Rally, which caught out Prodrive duo Nasser Al-Attiyah and Sebastien Loeb.

#221 Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux Overdrive: Guillaume de Mevius, Xavier Panseri

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De Mevius, who sat a distant 32nd after Friday’s Prologue, made rapid gains over the course of the 414km test between Al-’Ula and Al Henakiyah to overhaul Mattias Ekstrom and then Carlos Sainz Sr (both Audi) to claim his first-ever stage victory in Dakar.

It was overnight leader Ekstrom who held the top spot in the early part of the first special, building a lead of over two minutes by the fourth checkpoint at the 170km mark.

However, he began to come under pressure from a rapid Sainz in the middle part of the special, losing eight minutes relative to the Spaniard in the 56km stretch between checkpoints five and six.

Mevius was also able to take advantage of Ekstrom’s trouble to jump to second position, before surging ahead of Sainz at the next timed marker to seize the lead. 

The Belgian’s margin at the finish line was 1m44s, as he celebrated a stage victory in only his maiden appearance in Dakar’s Ultimate class after his 2023 bow in T3 machinery.

Sainz had to settle for second spot on a day Audi looked to have the stage win in the bag, although he was the only driver to finish anywhere close to Mevius.

#207 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Mattias Ekstrom, Emil Bergkvist

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#207 Team Audi Sport Audi RS Q e-tron E2: Mattias Ekstrom, Emil Bergkvist

Third-place Giniel de Villiers was classified nearly 10 minutes behind the Overdrive driver at the end of the day’s run, the works Toyota driver catapulting himself from seventh with a fine run in the last 100km stretch to the finish line. 

Fourth place went to Vaidotas Zala in the X-Raid Mini, while former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas completed an unusual top five in the Rebellion-entered Toyota Hilux.

Dumas led factory Toyota duo Lucas Moraes and Guy Botterill, who finished just 14 seconds apart in sixth and seventh, while local hero Yazeed Al-Rajhi (Overdrive) made it six Hilux pick-ups inside the top 10 with a time identical to Botterill.

Behind Al-Rajhi, Mathieu Serradori was a solid ninth for the Century Racing Team, while Ekstrom’s troubles saw him slip to 10th in the provisional timesheet as he haemorrhaged 15 minutes to winner de Mevius.

However, the big losers of the day were Loeb and Al-Attiyah, who both ran into problems in a major upset for their Prodrive team.

Both Loeb and Al-Attiyah were losing time to the frontrunners from the beginning of the stage, dropping outside the top 10 just 87km into the day’s running. They would lose more time as the stage progressed, with even a top-20 finish looking unlikely as a number of drivers leapfrogged them in the standings.

In the end, Loeb would just hang on to 20th place in the provisional order, but a 22-minute deficit to make up in the remaining 11 stages over the next two weeks.

Defending champion Al-Attiyah fared even worse on his switch from Toyota to Prodrive, the Qatari driver ending up 22nd in the table with a 25-minute margin to the front.

Dakar victory record holder Stephane Peterhansel also had a rough day in the third of the three Audi RS Q e-trons as he was classified 24th, another eight minutes off the lead.

Competitors will complete an even longer 463km stage to Al Duwadimi on Sunday, getting their first taste of the dunes after tackling a terrain largely comprising sand and dirt on Saturday.

Provisional classification after Stage 1 (Top 10):

Position

Driver

Car

Time / gap

1

Guillaume de Mevius

Toyota

4h35m59s

2

Carlos Sainz

Audi

+1m44s

3

Giniel de Villiers

Toyota

+9m18s

4

Vaidotas Zala

Mini

+10m42s

5

Romain Dumas

Toyota

+12m18s

6

Lucas Moraes

Toyota

+13m25s

7

Guy Botterill

Toyota

+14m39s

8

Yazeed Al Rajhi

Toyota

+13m39s

9

Mathieu Serradori

Century

+14m12s

10

Mattias Ekstrom

Audi

+14m20s

 

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