DAKAR – SPORTS –
The chequered flag has fallen after 5,000 kilometres against the clock at the 2023 Dakar Rally and taking home the top prizes are members of the Red Bull Desert Wings squad. 14 stages took the world’s most brutal rally across Saudi Arabia, from the Red Sea to the Arabian Gulf via the Empty Quarter desert. Only the most skilled sand racers and expert navigators managed to complete the mission and the best of them booked a place on the final podium.
As we got deeper into the two-week rally it became clear that no other driver was going to stop Nasser Al-Attiyah picking up his fifth Dakar title. The Qatari was in perfect synch with his co-driver Mathieu Baumel and their Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ throughout the rally.
“It was a difficult Dakar for everyone. It’s crazy to manage to defend my title. I’m very happy to win five times. I always want to win more and more.” – Nasser Al-Attiyah
Pushing Al-Attiyah closer than anyone else was nine-time WRC winner Sébastien Loeb. The Frenchman won six consecutive stages as he did his best to challenge for the lead alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin in the BRX Hunter. Eventually, this duo had to settle for second overall for the second year running.
“Finishing second overall is quite good. We also set a new record of stage wins so it’s not so bad.” – Sébastien Loeb
The most surprising result in the car race came from Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraesand his co-driver Timo Gottschalk. Moraes stood up to every challenge the Dakar threw at him and his Hilux to finish third overall on debut.
“Finishing on the podium is important for the rally community in Brazil because it had never happened before.” – Lucas Moraes
Finishing just off the podium in fourth overall was the Toyota Gazoo Racing duo of Giniel De Villiers/Dennis Murphy. Also crossing the finish line in Dammam were Kuba Przygoński/Armand Monleon plus Laia Sanz/Maurizio Gerini. With her latest result Sanz maintains her record of completing all 13 editions of the Dakar she has entered across the bike and car categories.
It was left to Mattias Ekström/Emil Bergkvist to represent Team Audi Sport on the final podium. Fellow Audi crews Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz were forced to retire from the rally prematurely.
This year’s bike race was a nail biter that wasn’t decided until the final few kilometres. In the end it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Kevin Benavideswho had his arm raised as he crossed the finish line in Dammam. The Argentinian biker has now won two of the four editions of the Dakar hosted by Saudi Arabia.
“It’s incredible to pull off the win at the end of this completely crazy Dakar.” – Kevin Benavides
Going into the 14th and final stage it was Benavides’s team-mate Toby Price who led the bike race, holding a 12 second advantage over his fellow KTM rider. Price did all he could to keep his nose in front on the 136km stage, but he was overtaken and pushed into second place overall.
“Yeah, hard to take at the moment, but at the end of the day I’m going home in one piece and we got a Dakar trophy.” – Toby Price
Daniel Sanders of Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing had led the rally during the first week, but illness saw him lose his place at the front. The Australian finished this Dakar seventh overall. There was a 12th place finish for Štefan Svitko while Mohammed Balooshi celebrated crossing the finish line of the Dakar for the fourth time.
It’s back-to-back Dakar victories for AJ Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin. After last year’s triumph in the T4 class, the duo continued their winning streak this time around in the T3 category. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew maintained a patient approach in their Can-Am Maverick and it paid dividends for the duo.
“We tried to stay as consistent as we could. Now we’ve taken another win. Back-to-back wins at the Dakar feels pretty good.” – AJ Jones
“To finally drive through every stage of the Dakar feels amazing. It’s only 350 days until the next one so we’re going get working on that.” – Seth Quintero
“I’m a little frustrated when we know that we finished third when the victory was there.” – Guillaume De Mevius
Just missing out on the podium were the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team crews of Cristina Gutiérrez/Pablo Moreno and Chaleco López/Juan Pablo Latrach who finished fourth and fifth respectively in the T3 class.
There was final stage heartbreak in the T4 race for Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal. The Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team pair led going into the 14th stage but a mechanical issue cost them first place and they eventually had to settle for second overall.
“We had a problem in the car and we had to stop for 10 minutes. Because of this we finished second and not first.” – Rokas Baciuška
The 2023 Dakar Rally has taken us coast to coast in Saudi Arabia and tested competitors and machines to the absolute limit. At the finish line exhaustion was etched onto every face, and still they can’t wait to come back again next year and take on the world’s most brutal rally once more!