Thursday’s Stage 11 took the Dakar Rally convoy deep into the Empty Quarter desert of Saudi Arabia, on Stage 11. The 273km/170-mile race route brought competitors over every type of desert sand and also asked questions of their mechanical abilities. With tonight being the midway point of this year’s Marathon Stage, competitors will have zero outside assistance with any repairs required. Instead they must perform all maintenance on their machines themselves before the start of Stage 12 tomorrow.
Up until today it had been a near perfect rally for Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver François Cazalet in their OT3. The duo had led the general classification of the T3 category since Stage 5 and now had the finish line coming into sight. However, the Dakar is a notoriously cruel race and on Stage 11 De Mevius’s OT3 came to standstill for more than 90 minutes. The pair were able to bring their machine to the end of the stage, but it looks like their dreams of victory have evaporated for another year.
Needing no second invitation to pounce on the vacancy at the head of the T3 race were Austin Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich duo had occupied the runners-up spot since Stage 6. Their consistency finally paid off on the first half of the Marathon Stage as they hit the front. Jones’s Can-Am Maverick holds an advantage of nearly an hour over his nearest competitor.
“That’s the kind of racing that we do, especially on the Dakar — everything changes fast,” noted Jones. “Anything can happen in these three days, but for now we’re in a good spot, so I’m happy.”
Now up to second overall are Jones’s teammates Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz. 20-year-old Quintero has showed maturity well beyond his years to battle back from a series of issues on Stage 4. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich driver is now second overall and with a cushion of over 30 minutes to De Mevius, who has dropped to third place.
The order of the leading trio of bikers was also shuffled again today, this time with Husqvarna rider Skyler Howes returning to the top of the overall ranking. The American’s advantage over Toby Price of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing is a slim 28 seconds at the midway point of the Marathon Stage.
Price’s KTM teammate Kevin Benavides is now in third overall, just a few minutes off the lead himself.
— Red Bull (@redbull) January 12, 2023
The imperious 2023 Dakar performance of defending car race champion Nasser Al-Attiyah continued today as he took the first half of the Marathon Stage in his stride. The Qatari, co-driver Mathieu Baumel and their Toyota Hilux T1+ clocked the day’s fifth-fastest time to see the gap to their nearest competitors stand at 1h21m 04s.
“Today we just needed to finish. We need to control things because there is no point going really crazy,” said Al-Attiyah.
It’s still Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes who holds second place in the car race. It’s amazing to see the debutant looking so relaxed when steering his Hilux to the finish line with co-driver Timo Gottschalk day after day.
The chilled-out attitude of Moraes is all the more surprising when you consider who is chasing him down. It was a fourth consecutive stage win for Sebastien Loeb, he’s now within 10 minutes of Moraes as he looks to leapfrog him from third overall. Loeb, co-driver Fabian Lurquin and their BRX Hunter are doing a fine job of hoovering up plenty of W2RC points in this second week at the Dakar.
“I had a good rhythm and pushed hard. The dunes were not so complicated overall, except some parts that were really tricky, but in the end we had a good day,” reckoned Loeb.
Keeping his cool and keeping his place at the front of the T4 contest on Stage 11 was Rokas Baciuska. The 23-year-old Lithuanian and co-driver Oriol Vidal of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team won the stage to extend their overall lead over second place Eryk Goczal to 4m17s.
Stage 12 will be another dune fest with a racing distance of 185km/115 miles before the convoy returns to the bivouac at Shaybah. The second half of the Marathon Stage will show us who has been able to keep their machine in perfect racing condition and who is lacking the performance to stay on the pace.
Selected Overall Standings after Stage 11
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 39:16:33
2. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:21:04
3. Sébastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:30:41
5. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +02:14:18
20. Mattias Ekström (SWE) AUDI +06:54:14
23. Kuba Przygoński (POL) MINI +07:20:49
60. Laia Sanz (ESP) ASTARA +18:17:38
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM +45:19:15
2. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +55:54
3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 +01:28:19
4. Chaleco López (CHL) CAN-AM +02:50:39
5. Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) CAN-AM +03:07:53
10. Ignacio Casale (CHL) YAMAHA +07:11:28
27. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) MCE5 +27:58:04
1. Rokas Baciuška (LTU) CAN-AM 46:42:42
2. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +04:17
3. Marek Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +14:18
1. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA 38:47:43
2. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +00:28
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM +02:44