The checkered flag has fallen after 5,000 kilometers/3,100 miles against the clock at the Dakar Rally. The world’s most brutal rally featured 14 stages across Saudi Arabia, from the Red Sea to the Arabian Gulf via the Empty Quarter desert. But it became clear early on in 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,” declared Al-Attiyah. “I’m very happy to win five times. I always want to win more and more.”
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 15, 2023
Pushing Al-Attiyah closer than anyone else was nine-time WRC winner Sebastien 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,” mused the Frenchman.
The most surprising result in the car race came from Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes and his co-driver Timo Gottschalk. Moraes stood up to every challenge the Dakar threw at him and his Hilux to finish third overall on his debut.
It was left to Mattias Ekstrom/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.
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.
This year’s bike race was a nail-biter that wasn’t decided until the final few kilometers. In the end it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Kevin Benavides who 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, and with such a small gap, ” Benavides said. “I’m also the first to win with two different motorbike brands, and that makes me very proud.”
Going into the 14th and final stage it was Benavides’s teammate 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/86-mile stage, but he was overtaken and pushed into second-place overall, just 43s behind.
America’s Skyler Howes, who had led much of the second week after early favorites Sam Sunderland and Ricky Brabec crashed out, finished third but just five minutes behind the winner.
It’s back-to-back Dakar victories for America’s Austin 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.
“This has been the toughest and longest Dakar that I’ve ever done. We’ve had ups and downs, but along the way 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,” said Jones.
Junior Team colleagues Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz joined the party on the podium as they finished second overall. Rounding out the T3 podium were Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver François Cazalet in their OT3.
Just missing out on the podium were the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team crews of Cristina Gutierrez/Pablo Moreno and Chaleco Lopez/Juan Pablo Latrach who finished fourth and fifth respectively in the T3 class.
There were also impressive stage results for Ignacio Casale/Alvaro Leon in their Yamaha and also Mitch Guthrie Jr./Kellon Walch in their MCE5 machine.
There was final stage heartbreak in the T4 race for Rokas Baciuska 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 to Poland’s Eryk Goczal and they had to settle for second overall.
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!
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Selected Final Overall Standings
T1 Car Class
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) TOYOTA 45:03:15
2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA) BRX +01:20:49
3. Lucas Moraes (BRA) TOYOTA +01:38:31
4. Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) TOYOTA +02:31:12
T3 Lightweight Prototype
1. Austin Jones (USA) CAN-AM 51:55:53
2. Seth Quintero (USA) CAN-AM +52:05
3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) OT3 +01:35:42
1. Eryk Goczal (POL) CAN-AM 53:10:14
2. Rokas Baciuska (LTU) CAN-AM +16:44
3. Marek Goczal (POL) CAN-AM +18:15
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG) KTM 44:27:20
2. Toby Price (AUS) KTM +00:43
3. Skyler Howes (USA) HUSQVARNA +05:04