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Two in a hurry – 35 overtaking maneuvers and eighth place for Al-Rajhi/Gottschalk at the start of the “Dakar”

6. January 2024

Further contributions

  • True “Dakar” start on Epiphany: Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk convert 59th starting position into eighth place on the day with a strong performance
  • Stage from al-‘Ula to Al Henakiyah leads through canyons, wadis and rocky terrain
  • Lots of dust hinders progress on tricky first stage – many co-favorites lose ground

Al Henakiyah, Saudi Arabia (January 6, 2024) – When reality doesn’t match the 100 percent carefully devised plan: Yazeed Al-Rajhi and Timo Gottschalk made the most of a tricky opening stage at the Dakar Rally, finishing eighth on the day. This meant that the strategy of starting as far back as possible only worked to a limited extent – but nevertheless ensured a good starting position for the coming days. The Saudi-Arabian-Brandenburg duo started the race in 59th place, leaving 35 competitors behind them on the course and setting the eighth-best time. Dust hindered progress, especially on the first part of the first “Dakar” special stage. Nevertheless, the current runners-up in the FIA Cross-Country World Rally Championship (W2RC) left many of the other favorites for podium finishes in their wake. The day’s victory surprisingly went to Guillaume de Mevius/Xavier Panseri (BEL/FRA, Toyota).

The route on the first leg of the Dakar Rally led from al-‘Ula to Al Henakiyah. The start of the stage was reminiscent of the previous day’s prologue and led between rocks and through canyons. The terrain then opened up, alternating between wadis and open terrain. Many changes of direction required wide-awake navigators. Around 130 kilometers led over rough, rocky and twisted terrain over the volcanic rock typical of the region.


“We are quite happy with the start and I think we made the most of our starting position. It helped – with a clear line in the rough terrain, for example – but also cost us time due to the many overtaking maneuvers in the dust.”


“An extremely long, extremely tough stage at the start of the Dakar Rally. Unfortunately, we had two punctures early on and had to drive as if on raw eggs for a long time to avoid risking another one – but we were helped, as planned, by the fact that many vehicles created a clear line in front of us.”



… the power of deceleration. At 131 bar, Yazeed Al-Rajhi built up the highest brake pressure in the prologue of the 2024 Dakar Rally. For comparison: This corresponds to the pressure that prevails at a depth of 1,300 meters – and very few submarines can withstand this.

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