The Dakar Rally has reached its midway Rest Day following eight grueling stages through Saudi Arabia. Despite hostile weather conditions we’ve still had over 2,500 kilometers/ of racing against the clock and a truckload of dramatic stories along the way.
BRX’s Sebastien Loeb won today’s eighth stage by 2m11s over Nasser Al-Attiyah, although the Toyota driver maintains a comfortable advantage for the overall lead at the halfway point.
The four-time Dakar winner, his co-driver Mathieu Baumel and their Toyota Hilux GR DKR T1+ have been in perfect harmony this week. The nearest car race rival, Toyota stablemate Henk Lategan, remains over an hour behind Al-Attiyah after eight stages.
“Next week we will have a lot of dunes — I’m looking forward to it. I’m coming home!” declared Qatar’s Al-Attiyah.
📺 Here come the highlights from Stage 8️⃣ with big drama on the podium for the drivers 🚗 and an eighth different 🏍 rider winning from eight days of racing.
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 8, 2023
A third Toyota driven by rookie Lucas Moraes was competing with Al-Attiyah for the biggest smile in the bivouac, The Brazilian and his experienced co-driver Timo Gottschalk are third overall.
“I could never imagine the Dakar would be as hard as it is. Now we’ve reached the Rest Day in third overall and we want to keep things going like this,” said Moraes.
They’ll need to, because a pair of car crews with their eyes on removing Moraes from the overall podium are Loeb/Fabian Lurquin and Giniel De Villiers/Dennis Murphy. These Dakar heavyweights are fourth and fifth respectively and will be on the attack in the second week.
“It was a good stage — a clean stage this time, for us,” summed up Loeb. “Just one puncture — we had to change one wheel, but the rest was OK. We tried to make it a big one.”
It’s been a week to forget at the Dakar for Team Audi Sport. However, despite the team’s troubles and the retirement of Stephane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger, it still has two Audi RS Q e-tron E2 cars in the race. Expect to see Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz and Mattias Ekstrom/Emil Bergkvist pushing for stage wins in week two.
The bike race heads into Rest Day with America’s Skyler Howes still on top. The Husqvarna rider has been ahead most of the week after the race lost defending champion Sam Sunderland on Stage 1 — the British rider retired due to a broken shoulder blade sustained during a crash — and America’s Ricky Brabec also crashed out, fortunately without serious injury.
Just 13 seconds back from Howes are Kevin Benavides of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Mason Klein. The fact that these two bikers have exactly the same time after eight Dakar stages tells us something about the strange nature of the rally this year.
“It was fun to finish the stage riding as a big group in the dunes,” said Benavides. “Now we want to do our best in the second week.”
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 8, 2023
Just 2m58s off the lead and in fourth overall is Benavides’s KTM teammate Toby Price.
Daniel Sanders of Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing led the rally after three stages, but illness has seen him fall to seventh overall. The Australian will use the Rest Day to recover his strength ahead of the second week of the rally.
Stage 8 gave us a taste of the battle we can expect to see at the front of the T3 race in the second week of the Dakar. Guillaume De Mevius/Francois Cazalet maintained their overall lead of the category, but know the pressure will be on from Tuesday onwards.
America’s Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich are closest to De Mevius in the overall standings, their Can-Am just 3m19s off the lead.
“I’m happy that it’s Rest Day tomorrow — this one’s been tough. My plan is to sleep until at least 9am and then eat a lot of food!” said Jones.
His teammates Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz have given themselves a double mission for the second week at this Dakar. They want to do everything they can to chase down the leader, and they also want to protect their Can-Am’s spot on the overall podium.
“We’ve got a lot of racing left. I’m probably going to turn up the pace a little bit in the second week and see what happens,” Quintero said.
The third Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew of Mitch Guthrie Jr./Kellon Walch have endured an up-and-down first week in their T3-M by MCE5 machine. Three stage wins have been celebrated, but also a tough Stage 5 cost them their chances of an overall victory.
Rokas Baciuska and co-driver Oriol Mena continue to lead the way in the T4 category for the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team.
Now the Dakar’s competitors and their engines will remain stationary for 24 hours. The Rest Day is a chance to recover some sleep and also tune up the vehicles for the second week of the Dakar. The six stages left to go feature dunes all the way to the finish line in Damman. Everyone can rest assured that there’s plenty more drama to come.
Selected Overall Standings after Stage 8
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 31:02:58
2. Henk Lategan (ZAF) TOYOTA +01:03:36
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:20:22
4. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:52:06
5. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +02:04:20
35. Mattias Ekström (SWE) AUDI +07:02:38
37. Kuba Przygoński (POL) MINI +07:16:09
78. Laia Sanz (ESP) ASTARA +16:19:31
95. Carlos Sainz (ESP) AUDI +29:16:59
1. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA 30:33:16
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM +00:13
3. Mason Klein (USA) KTM +00:13
4. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +01:58
7. Daniel Sanders (AUS) GASGAS +07:03
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM +22:35
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 36:03:09
2. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM +03:19
3. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +01:02:25
4. Chaleco López (CHL) CAN-AM +02:30:51
5. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) CAN-AM +02:53:37
10. Ignacio Casale (CHL) YAMAHA +06:48:17
26. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) MCE5 +24:35:03
1. Rokas Baciuška (LTU) CAN-AM 37:33:31
2. Marek Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +04:34
3. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +05:48