Europe 1 with AFP 8:11 p.m., January 11, 2023

Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Fabian Lurquin continue their hunt for points for the world championship, snatching their fourth stage victory on Wednesday in the 2023 edition of the Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia, including Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota), 4th at more than 5 min 45 sec, remains the absolute master.

Sébastien Loeb won the tenth stage of the Dakar 2023. His fourth success since the start of this edition.

The French driver was ahead in this 10th stage of 624 km, between Harad and Shaybah, the Swede Mattias Ekstrom (Audi) by 3 min and 04 sec, according to the provisional classification.

Brazilian Lucas Moraes, 25, who continues his cautious attacking tactics behind the wheel of his Toyota, was third at 5:22.

"It was good training for tomorrow" and the arrival in the Empty Quarter desert, commented Moraes who, however, had to stop due to dune sickness, similar to seasickness. Al-Attiyah, he manages quietly from a distance.

"We don't need to attack, we are not going to try to win stages, the most important thing is to go for the final victory and it will be like that until the end", comments his co-driver Mathieu Baumel , 4th of the day at 5 min and 45 sec.


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Al-Attiyah invincible

Thursday will be the first of the two days called "marathon" because the competitors will not have assistance Thursday evening at the bivouac.

"If they make us intersect the dunes with tracks, it can be a bit complicated because you have to find the right track, continues Baumel, and you can quickly make a mistake and not find the next waypoint. There is a way to do something nice".

In the provisional general classification, the Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel duo remains unbeatable, with 1 h 21 min ahead of his teammates Moraes and his co-driver, the German Tomi Gottschalk.

Third at 1 h and 37 min, Loeb is far from having secured his position on the podium, with less than 12 minutes ahead of the South African Henk Lategan (Toyota).

The other South African Giniel de Villiers (Toyota), winner of the Dakar in 2009, is more than 43 minutes behind the Frenchman.


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Spectator killed

In the truck category, leader Ales Loprais did not start on Wednesday morning, after the fatal accident in which he was involved the day before.

The Czech driver said in a Facebook video on Wednesday that he was "terribly sorry" after his truck hit a 69-year-old Italian spectator who was behind a dune and died in the medical helicopter that had picked him up .

Loprais "has made himself available to the authorities for the investigation of use in such cases", indicates ASO.

Obviously, neither the pilot nor his co-pilot were aware of the impact, as the images from the on-board camera seem to prove.

“The whole team only learned (of the accident) when we went to bed and the marshals came to tell us that they had a video recording of the accident,” said the 43-year-old driver who specifies that the victim died of a heart attack "two or three hours after" the accident.

The regulations allow him to stay in the race even if he did not start on Wednesday, according to ASO.


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"Super open" on a motorcycle

In motorcycling, the Botswana rider Ross Branch won his second victory on his Hero.

Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren and his Honda finished on his wheel, 21 seconds behind, and Michael Docherty (Husqvarna), the South African for whom this is the first Dakar, confirmed his potential by placing third at 30 seconds, according to preliminary results.

"Dakar is harder than I thought. But today I felt at home here," said Docherty, who lives in Dubai.

"Deep down I want to win, I know I can, we'll see later, I continue to learn about navigation," he reacted.

Fourth one minute behind Branch, Argentinian Kevin Benavides (KTM) winner of the Dakar in 2021 takes the lead in the provisional general classification from American Skyler Howes (Husqvarna), 1 min 29 sec per second.

Australian Toby Price (KTM) is third.

"Everything remains super open and it will remain imprecise until the end", predicts Adrien Van Beveren, 4th with a gap reduced to 9 min and 52 sec and who will try Thursday to "limit the damage" before "taking everything out on next day".