Just one more stage stands between the 2023 Dakar Rally convoy and the finish line in Dammam. 5,000 racing kilometers (3,100 miles) have been clocked across treacherous terrain, including the dunes of the Empty Quarter desert.
The bike contest is still wide open with just the last 136km/85 miles to race between Al-Hofuf and Damman on tomorrow’s 14th and final stage. Right now it’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Toby Price on top, but his advantage is only 12 seconds as he targets his third Dakar title.
“Today I caught the guys around 90km and just thought to myself, ‘If I want to win this race, I need to be at the front and try and capture that bonus a little bit’. I’m happy, I’ve put a 100 percent in every day,” said Price.
The biker just a dozen seconds behind Price is another Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, Kevin Benavides. However, Benavides had more than the rally to worry about on Stage 13 when his teammate Matthias Walkner suffered a crash and was airlifted to hospital.
“I saw Matthias on the ground at kilometer 55 and it was so scary because he had a lot of pain in the back. I stayed with him and we called the doctors, we called the team. Then the helicopter came and when he was a little more calm he told me to ride on. I wish him a fast recovery,” said Benavides.
America’s Skyler Howes slipped to third overall, but the Husqvarnar rider is still in with a shot, just 1m31s behind.
📺 Stage 13 highlights after a historic day & a sixth straight special win for @SebastienLoeb, whilst a heroic ride from @kmbenavides keeps him in the mix with @tobyprice87 & @skylerhowes110 going into Sunday's showdown.
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 14, 2023
Sebastien Loeb provided fireworks in the car race with his sixth stage win in a row. The Frenchman continues to sit second overall in the car race with his co-driver Fabian Lurquin. While outright victory at this Dakar maybe beyond the BRX Hunter driver, he is picking up useful World Rally-Raid Championship points with every stage win.
“I wanted to cement my second place. Championship points are important too, so I pushed even though the visibility made the dunes hard to jump,” related Loeb.
Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to lead the car race, as he has done since the rally arrived in Ha’il at the conclusion of Stage 3. Despite Loeb’s string of stage wins, the gap between himself and Al-Attiyah in first place still stands at 1h21m 42s. Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel are looking good to make it back-to-back Dakar wins when they arrive in Dammam tomorrow.
“For the championship it’s important to do well like we did today because it earns us points in the fight against Seb, but what is really important to me is winning the Dakar,” said Al-Attiyah. “The race was great for us, we just have to bring the title home now.”
Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes is third overall and also enjoys a large gap over the next nearest competitor in fourth place, nearly an hour.
For the fifth day at this Dakar the T3 stage win was claimed by Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch in their T3-M by MCE5 machine. Mechanical issues on a couple of stages took this Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich duo out of the fight for the overall podium, but despite this they have still left their mark on the rally.
It’s Guthrie Jr.’s team-mates Austin Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin and Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz who hold first and second overall in the T3 race. Jones goes into tomorrow’s final stage with a lead of 54m 30s over Quintero.
“I think out of every stage we’ve done so far, that was the hardest one. The sun was in a really bad spot for the first half of the day,” Jones said.
The third place T3 crew of Guillaume De Mevius/Francois Cazalet are more than half an hour back from Quintero, meaning the overall T3 podium places look likely to stay the same tomorrow.
Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team driver Rokas Baciuska continues to hold top spot in the T4 race. Baciuska and co-driver Oriol Vidal now just have one more stage to clear before they can celebrate a richly deserved victory.
A 136km dash along the coastline of the Arabian Gulf between Al-Hofuf and Dammam for the 14th and final stage on Sunday will see plenty of opportunity for speed for those competitors looking to gain a few crucial seconds on their closest rivals. Then comes the party on the seafront podium where every member of the Dakar convoy who crosses the finish line will get a warm reception from fans, teammates and fellow competitors.
Selected Overall Standings after Stage 13
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 43:48:10
2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:21:42
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:35:50
4. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +02:30:44
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM 50:31:59
2. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +54:30
3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 +01:33:28
1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU) CAN-AM 51:41:34
2. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +03:24
3. Marek Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +23:01
1. Toby Price (AUS) KTM 43:11:51
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM +00:12
3. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA +01:31