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Dakar: Mattias Ekström best time in the prologue, Sébastien Loeb is placed

The Swede Mattias Ekström was the fastest on Friday on the prologue of the Dakar, a 27 km special in the sand of Al-Ula, for the launch of the 46th edition of the rally-raid in the north-west of Arabia Saudi Arabia.

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Dakar: Mattias Ekström best time in the prologue, Sébastien Loeb is placed

The Swede Mattias Ekström was the fastest on Friday on the prologue of the Dakar, a 27 km special in the sand of Al-Ula, for the launch of the 46th edition of the rally-raid in the north-west of Arabia Saudi Arabia. Already winner of the prologue in 2023, this year he set a time of 16'30'', 23 seconds ahead of the American Seth Quintero (Toyota), who has just moved up to the premier category, after three Dakars in T3 (light prototype) . “The feelings were good, I wanted to prove that I was there to play in the big leagues. It worked very well, there were quite a few pitfalls and we did well,” he declared after the prologue.

Quintero, 21, has the difficult task of succeeding Nasser Al-Attiyah, winner of the last two editions, who left for Prodrive this season. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive), 2nd in the last edition, finished in 3rd place, 38 seconds behind. “It wasn’t that simple. We didn't really know whether to attack or manage to be behind (so as not to open the track on Saturday, Editor's note). But, I was afraid of being too far behind. I preferred to take the attack side and try to set a good time,” underlined the nine-time world rally champion. The stakes of this prologue make it possible to determine the starting order of the first stage on Saturday for the first ten competitors in cars and motorcycles.

The Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel (Audi) sets the 7th time (45 sec) while the Spaniard Carlos Sainz, three-time winner of the event (Audi), is very far from the top 10, at 2’18”. The winner of the 2023 edition, the Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Prodrive) took 12th place at 1’01”. “It's good to see that everything works in a new car,” rejoiced Frenchman Mathieu Baumel, co-driver of Al-Attiyah. “You had to win or not be in the 10. We would have wanted to be 12th on purpose, we wouldn't have succeeded, it's a very good place,” he added.

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