Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally ends the marathon and starts a sprint to the finish

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Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergvist on their Audi RS Q e-tron E2 of the Team Audi Sport during the Prologue of the Dakar 2023, on December 31, 2022 near Yanbu, Saudi Arabia
Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergvist on their Audi RS Q e-tron E2 of the Team Audi Sport during the Prologue of the Dakar 2023, on December 31, 2022 near Yanbu, Saudi Arabia - Person / Team: Mattias Ekström, Team Audi Sport Photographer Credit: DPPI / Red Bull Content Pool

Stage 12 at the 2023 Dakar Rally saw the conclusion of the two-part Marathon Stage. Competitors had been separated from their mechanics for two days and forced to make any necessary repairs themselves to complete 450km of racing in the dunes. With the massive loop over Empty Quarter dunes now done and dusted, let’s see who has risen and fallen in the general classification…

A fifth consecutive stage win for Sébastien Loeb has seen the nine-time WRC winner move up to second overall in the car race. Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin have been setting the pace since the Rest Day in their BRX Hunter and are now just one place off the overall lead.

“It was a perfect day: no mistakes, no stalling, no about turns. We drove well and the car worked perfectly. Second place is our goal, that’s why we’re pushing.” – Sébastien Loeb

The one car still ahead of Loeb in the general classification is the Toyota Hilux T1+ belonging to Nasser Al-Attiyah. The Qatari and his co-driver Mathieu Baumelovercame the two-part Marathon Stage with minimal fuss. Four-time Dakar champion Al-Attiyah now has just two stages to successfully complete before he can celebrate a fifth title at the world’s most brutal rally.

“It’s good to finish the marathon stage and bring the car back in good condition. If we finish in the Top 5 each day, that’s OK for me, we have a big enough lead.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah

Rookie Lucas Moraes may have finally conceded second place overall to Loeb on Stage 12, but the Brazilian driver still has a spot on the podium to protect. The gap to the driver in fourth overall stands at just under an hour. Moraes and his experienced co-driver Timo Gottschalk now have the final finish line in Dammam in their sights.

“We’re still on the podium so we will fight hard to hold this place until the rally ends in two more days.” – Lucas Moraes

 

The leading rider in the bike race has changed every day since the Rest Day in Riyadh. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders Toby Price and Kevin Benavidesplus Husqvarna biker Skyler Howes are locked in an ever evolving battle for supremacy.

At the conclusion of Stage 12 it’s two-time Dakar bike race winner Toby Price who has put himself back on top. However, the gaps are still small and Price’s lead over second place Howes is just 28 seconds.

“The Empty Quarter has delivered what they said it was going to do. There was a lot of sand and a lot of nothing out here.” – Toby Price

For Price, Howes and Benavides there’s nothing left to do except ride the best two stages you can on the way to Dammam and hope that it’s enough to bring home the win. After such a close race, it’s going to be tough to take for the two riders of this trio who eventually miss out on victory at the 2023 Dakar.

It was a solid conclusion to the Marathon Stage in the T3 category for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich. First of all there was a win on Stage 12 for Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch in their T3-M by MCE5 machine.

“Today we had a great day. No problems, the car was fast. I think we overtook about 75 cars and won the stage.” – Mitch Guthrie Jr.

Guthrie Jr.’s team-mates AJ Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin were also applauded back to the Shaybah bivouac as they now hold the overall T3 lead. Jones’s closest competitors are the fellow Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team crew of Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz as 1h 4m 37s separates first and second overall in the T3 rankings.

“We’ve kept our lead the way it is, so everything is all good over here. For sure, the Empty Quarter is not my favourite – I’m not going to lie – but everyone has to do it, and it is pretty; it’s nice to look at.” – AJ Jones

It was an expert drive on both legs of the Marathon Stage from T4 race leader Rokas Baciuška. The 23-year-old Lithuanian finished third overall last year and now looks set to take the big prize alongside co-driver Oriol Vidal.

“Two days more, just two days more… Pedal to the metal, that’s the only strategy to do.” – Rokas Baciuška

Tomorrow’s Stage 13 is the final chance for the convoy to surf the Empty Quarter dunes at this edition of the Dakar. A 153km timed special stage leaves the door open to one last serious attack by competitors who want to lift themselves a place or two higher in the rankings before the chequered flag falls in Dammam.

 

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