So far so good

Audi leads the Dakar halfway through the Empty Quarter special stage.

Strategy followed by some inspired driving has seen Audi occupying first and second positions outright on Day Seven of the Dakar Rally.

12 January, 2024

Audi Sport’s strategy of starting further back in the field for the opening of the 48 hour chrono stage seems to have paid early dividends with Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz capturing the outright lead and Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist sitting in second at the overnight point.

A daunting 600 kilometre stage held over two days, saw competitors race out into the vast Empty Quarter to drive as far as possible around the route until 4pm on the first day, when racing stopped. Teams then made their way to the rest stop nearest their position to overnight in the desert with none of the extended team support, mechanical support or even the limited comforts of a normal overnight bivouac.

With just basic camping facilities supplied, bottled water and military-style rations, the drivers had no idea overnight where their competitors or other teammates sat in the standings, their finishing position today determining how much further they would have to travel tomorrow (Day eight) until the finish of the stage.

Starting from 16th position, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz blasted into the lead early in the proceedings and staying there for the duration, while Mattias Ekström and Emil Bergkvist likewise enjoyed a good day in the dunes, finishing the day in second position and moving into outright second as well. Their performance saw them travel deep into the stage leaving them with just a further 113km remaining in the stage when racing resumes at sun up. Their French teammates Stephane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger weren’t quite so fortunate, suffering significant tyre damage after a particularly heavy impact saw them performing running repairs. Unfortunately equipment failure when they were attempting to change the ruined tyre proved very costly and saw them lose a full two hours. Despite running strongly in fifth for the day when the problems struck, their race day couldn’t be salvaged and they still have just over 300km to get out of the Empty Quarter and see them complete the chrono stage.

Starting from 16th position, Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz blasted into the lead early in the proceedings

The challenge of the Empty Quarter

Strategy and some inspired driving pay dividends for two of the three Audis in the dunes.

Watch the Stage 6 highlights