SAUDI ARABIA -- Sebastien Loeb took his fourth stage win in a row as the Dakar Rally raced into Saudi Arabia's Empty Quarter on Thursday with reigning champion Nasser Al-Attiyah comfortably on course for his fifth title in the car category.
Nine times world rally champion Loeb took his fifth stage win of the 2023 event for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team by finishing two minutes and 16 seconds clear of fellow Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit, for GCK Motorsport.
Loeb is closing in on second place overall, now just over nine minutes behind Overdrive Racing's Brazilian Dakar rookie Lucas Moraes.
"It was a good stage today for us. We had to change one wheel in the dunes, so it was a bit tricky to find a good place to do it and we lost a bit of time for it. For the rest, I had a good rhythm. I pushed hard," said Loeb.
Al-Attiyah, who was fifth fastest on the 274km 11th special stage from Shaybah, is one hour and 21 minutes clear at the top of the standings in his Toyota Hilux.
The rally ends in Dammam on Sunday.
"We did an amazing stage and no mistakes. It looked a little bit easy because we don’t really push a lot, just to finish today without any problem so we don’t need to work on our car all night," said the Qatari.
"We don’t need to attack for nothing. We still have too many hours ... today we just needed to finish. We need to control because there is no point really going crazy."
In the motorcycle category, American Skyler Howes took over at the top for Husqvarna but only by 28 seconds from Australian KTM rider Toby Price while overnight leader and 2021 winner Kevin Benavides of Argentina dropped to third.
"There wasn’t much separating us out there today. I know the times were super close ... all it’s going to do is to be tight going all the way in to the finish, which is super exciting," said Howes.