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Off-Roaders Set To Take On The Desert In Annual Dakar Event

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 30 2022

It’s Dakar time for worlds best off-road racers. (File photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Starting field for the annual Dakar Rally has assembled in Saudi Arabia for the event’s 2023 edition beginning on Saturday, Dec. 31, with the world’s best off-road racers facing 5,000-plus challenging miles spread over 14 timed special stages before the checkered flag falls at Dammam on Sunday, Jan. 15.

More than 550 competitors in seven classes will race across varying terrain including desert, canyons, dunes and mountains throughout Saudi Arabia. This will mark the fourth consecutive time the country has hosted the race. The Dakar Rally is 43-years-old, having officially begun in 1979. The inaugural race began in Paris, France, and finished in Dakar, Senegal.

Here is all you need to know:

_ The Dakar Rally is the pinnacle of the Rally Raid calendar. Rally Raid, also known as cross-country rallying, is a form of long-distance off-road racing that takes place over several days.

_ The Dakar Rally actually traces its origins to 1977, when French motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After navigating his way out of the desert, the Frenchman was determined to design a race that drew on his experience with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar. Since that time, the Dakar Rally has evolved from racing in Africa to South America and now to Saudi Arabia.

_ The race consists of one stage per day comprising at least one “special” stage each (several hundred kilometers long), which may be on or off-road. The total distance covered is several thousand kilometers. The event traditionally takes place over a period of 10 to 15 days.

_ Classification of the stage is made up of times set during the special stage plus any sporting penalties. The race requires precise navigation, done via a roadbook provided by the organizers and handed out at the start of each stage.

_The starting order of each special will be based upon the times set in the timed sector of the previous stage, including any sporting penalties (for example, for speeding in link sectors or missing waypoints) incurred during the stage.

_ The 2023 Dakar Rally will be the longest route since 2014, as participants will tackle 5,000 kilometers of specials into a prologue and 14 stages. The Prologue Stage launches on Dec. 31, 2022, in Yanbu by the Red Sea with the field looking to make it all the way across _ loaded with more dunes and potential pitfalls than ever _ to Dammam on the Arabian Gulf for a Jan. 15 finish.

_ In the T1 Car Class, Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) return to Saudi Arabia behind the wheel of a Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ with the Qatari driver aiming for a fourth Dakar title. The 51-year-old said: “We’re ready to defend our title. It would be incredible to win again.”

_Also driving a Toyota Hilux T1+ will be Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dennis Murphy (ZAF) and Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU). Meanwhile, Sébastien Loeb (FRA) returns in his BRX Prodrive Hunter alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin (BEL) after finishing as runnerup to Al-Attiyah in 2022.

_ Three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz (ESP) and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) will compete in their Audi RS Q e-tron E2 with Monsieur Dakar himself Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and co-driver Edouard Boulanger (FRA) also joining Mattias Ekström (SWE)/Emil Bergkvist (SWE) in Audi’s three-pronged lineup. Dakar stalwart Kuba Przygoński (POL) will compete for MINI with co-driver Armand Monleon (ESP).

_ Defending Dakar and FIM World Rally-Raid Championship bike champ Sam Sunderland (GBR) will represent Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing as he targets a third Dakar victory. “The 2023 race is looking to be one of the toughest ever,” Sunderland said. “I’m under no illusion as to what that means.”

_ Also riding with Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing is Daniel Sanders (AUS), who scored fourth in 2021 with two-time Dakar winner Toby Price back on his KTM 450 Rally bike. The Australian said: “The terrain in Saudi Arabia makes the rally very fast. Some stages are a sprint to the finish.”

_ Red Bull KTM Factory Racing also boasts former champions Matthias Walkner (AUT) and Kevin Benavides (ARG), while Štefan Svitko (SVK), Mohammed Balooshi (ARE) and Camille Chapelière (FRA) also will line up for the start.

_ In the side-by-side category, a new collaboration between the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and Can-Am will see 20-year-old Seth Quintero (USA) racing a Can-Am Maverick T3 alongside co-driver Dennis Zenz (GER). “I think we’ve got a really good base and shot at winning Dakar,” Zenz said. Quintero holds the record for most stages won in the Dakar Rally, with 12 in 2022.

_ American Ricky Brabec, who followed his historic Bike class victory in 2020 with a second-place finish in 2021, also is among the headliners. Other top U.S. riders include Skyler Howes, who posted back-to-back top-10 finishes in the Bike class in 2020 and 2021, and rookie Mason Klein. In the T3 class, Seth Quintero and 2022 T4 champion Austin Jones are featured.

_ Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) and Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) will line up with Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) and co-driver Pablo Moreno (ESP) taking charge of a Can-Am Maverick for their first Dakar.

_ Reigning Dakar T3 champions Chaleco López (CHL) and Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) now are teammates of Cristina Gutiérrez. Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP), Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/François Cazalet (FRA) and three-time quad race-winner Ignacio Casale (CHL) and navigator Alvaro León (CHL) also are on the grid sheet.

Nightly coverage of Dakar in the United States will begin Sunday, Jan. 1, at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Peacock and continue through Sunday, Jan. 15. Highlights of every show (all 14 stages and the rest day), exclusive racer interviews and features will be available on Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms.

CNBC will present three, hour-long encore presentations throughout the event (Saturday, Jan. 7, at noon (EST); Sunday, Jan. 8, at 11 a.m. (EST) and Sunday, Jan. 15, at noon (EST) that will be streamed on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.


Here is the complete same-day coverage schedule of the 2023 Dakar Rally on Peacock and CNBC:

Sunday, Jan. 1 _ Stage 1, Sea Camp (6:30 p.m., EST, on Peacock)

Monday, Jan. 2 _ Stage 2, Sea Camp to Alula (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Tuesday, Jan. 3 _ Stage 3, Alula to Ha’il (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Wednesday, Jan. 4 _ Stage 4, Ha’il (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Thursday, Jan. 5 _ Stage 5, Ha’il (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Friday, Jan. 6 _ Stage 6, Ha’il to Al Duwadimi (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Saturday, Jan. 7 _ Stages 5 and 6 (Encore presentation at noon on CNBC)

Saturday, Jan. 7 _ Stage 7, Al Duwadimi (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 8 _ Stages 6 and 7 (Encore presentation at 11 a.m. on CNBC)

Sunday, Jan. 8 _ Stage 8, Al Duwadimi to Riyadh (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Monday, Jan. 9 _ Rest Day (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Tuesday, Jan. 10 _ Stage 9, Riyadh to Haradh (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Wednesday, Jan. 11 _ Stage 10, Haradh to Shaybah (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Thursday, Jan. 12 _ Stage 11, Shaybah to Empty Quarter Marathon (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Friday, Jan. 13 _ Stage 12, Empty Quarter Marathon to Shaybah (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Saturday, Jan. 14 _ Stage 13, Shaybah to Al-Hofuf (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 15 _ Stages 12 and 13 (Encore presentation at noon on CNBC)

Sunday, Jan. 15 _ Stage 14, Al-Hofuf to Dammam (6:30 p.m. on Peacock)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, December 30 2022
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