Dakar 2024: Ekstrom fastest for Audi in Prologue


The 46th edition of the world’s most prestigious rally-raid kicked off with a short 27km timed run in Al’Ula in the western part of Saudi Arabia on Friday, with the entire section run on sandy terrain.

The Prologue, a common feature of Dakar over the years, once again served as a qualifying session of sorts, with the top 10 finishers getting to choose the starting positions of their own choice for the opening stage.

In a category comprising 70 cars, Ekstrom drew first blood as he set an impressive time of 16m30s in his Audi RS Q e-tron, even going faster than the top RallyGP entry in the bikes class.

The Swede, competing in Dakar for a fourth year in succession following his 2021 bow with Yamaha, beat the factory Toyota Hilux of Seth Quintero by 23 seconds.

Quintero, who won the T3 class of the World Rally-Raid Championship last year, led the Toyota contingent on a day his works team-mates lacked the pace to break inside the top 10.

Third place in Prologue went to nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb, who finished another three seconds adrift in the Prodrive Hunter run under the Bahrain Raid Xtreme banner.

Loeb, who is still searching for a maiden overall victory in Dakar after seven previous attempts, set an identical time to fourth-placed Marcos Baumgart in his Team X-entered Hunter.

#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb, Fabian Lurquin


#203 Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter: Sebastien Loeb, Fabian Lurquin


Baumgart’s brother Cristian was classified another six seconds behind in fifth, as Prodrive secured three spots inside the top five.

In a return of form for the X-Raid Mini team, once a giant of the Dakar Rally, Polish driver Krzysztof Holowczyc was a promising sixth in the outfit’s John Cooper Work 4×4, setting the same time as Cristian Baumgart.

Finishing just behind in seventh was 14-time winner Stephane Peterhansel in the second of the three electric-powered Audis, with Lionel Baud next up in the lead Overdrive-entered customer Toyota.

Martin Propok, now driving a Ford Raptor for MP Sports / Benzina team, and Century Racing’s Brian Baragwanath rounded out the top 10.

Five-time Dakar winner Al-Attiyah made a relatively low-key start to his title defence as he ended up 12th in Prologue, just behind the second-best Overdrive Toyota of Guerlain Chicherit.

However, the Qatari driver, who has joined Prodrive this year following a long stint with Toyota, lost just a shade over a minute to Ekstrom, despite being first on the road in today’s 27km test.

Further back, 2014 winner Nani Roma kicked off Ford’s maiden Dakar entry with a respectable 17th-place finish in Prologue with a time of 17m52s. Gareth Woolridge in the other factory Ranger was another minute behind in 31st place.

Dakar 2024 – Prologue results:

Mattias Ekstrom
Seth Quintero 
Sebastien Loeb
Marcos Baumgart
Cristian Baumgart
Krzysztof Holowczyc
Stephane Peterhansel
Lionel Baud
Martin Prokop
Brian Baragwanath

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