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Loeb Concludes Marathon With Win

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, January 14 2023

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Stage 12 of the 45th Dakar Rally on Friday saw conclusion of the two-part Marathon Stage, with Frenchman Sebastien Loeb scoring a fifth consecutive cars stage win across the Saudi Arabian desert.

Jan. 13/Stage 12/Empty Quarter Marathon-Shaybah/Distance-Total/Special: 374.86-kilometers/183-kilometers

_ A nine-time World Rally Championship winner, Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin moved to second overall in their BRX Hunter albeit 1-hour, 27-minutes, 10 seconds behind defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah.

_ Four-time/reigning Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar now has just two stages to successfully complete in his Toyota Hilux T1+ before celebrating a fifth title at the world’s most brutal rally. Meanwhile, Brazilian rookie Lucas Moraes is over 50 minutes ahead of former winner Giniel de Villiers in the fight for the third podium spot.

“It was a perfect day: no mistakes, no stalling, no about-turns,” said Loeb, 48. “We drove well and the car worked perfectly. Second place is our goal, that’s why we’re pushing.”

_ The leading bike rider has changed every stage since Monday’s Rest Day with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price 28 seconds ahead of American Skyler Howes and Argentinian Kevin Benavides, now 2-minutes, 40-seconds off in third.

“The Empty Quarter has delivered what they said it was going to do,” said Price, a 35-year-old native of Australia. “There was a lot of sand and a lot of nothing.”

_ It was a solid T3 conclusion for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich, as American Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch won the day and team-mates A.J. Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin were applauded back to the Shaybah bivouac as the leaders. “The car was fast,” said Guthrie Jr., 26. “I think we overtook about 75 cars!”

_ A.J. Jones’ closest competitors are teammates Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz, 1-hour, 4-minutes,  37-seconds behind. T4 race-leader Rokas Baciuška appears poised to take the big prize alongside co-driver Oriol Vidal thanks to a 7-minute, 43-second gap to Poland’s Eryk Goczal after the Lithuanian finished third last year. “Pedal to the metal. That’s the only strategy,” the 23-year-old Baciuška said.

_ Saturday’s penultimate Stage 13 is an opportunity for the remaining convoy to surf the Empty Quarter dunes over a 153-kilometer timed special stage.

Jan. 12/Stage 11/Shaybah-Empty Quarter Marathon/Distance-Total/Special: 428.27-kilometers/274-kilometers

Competitors remaining in the 45th Dakar Rally attacked the first part of the Marathon Stage on Thursday, with podium places in the T3 and bike categories shuffling over the treacherous sand dunes.

_ Stage 11 took the convoy deep into the Empty Quarter with a timed, 274-kilometer route offering every type of desert sand while questioning mechanical abilities _ as Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver François Cazalet experienced when they fell foul in their OT3. De Mevius and Cazalet had collaborated to lead until Thursday when they came to a standstill for more than 90 minutes.

That downtime elevated the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich duo of A.J. Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin into the lead. “That’s the kind of racing that we do, especially on the Dakar,” Jones said. “Everything changes fast.”

_ Jones’ teammates _ Seth Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz _ now are up to second overall, with the 20-year-old holding a cushion of over 30 minutes to Belgian De Mevius, who has dropped to third.

_ Keeping his cool in T4 was 23-year-old Lithuanian Rokas Baciuška, who along with co-driver Oriol Vidal of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team won the stage to extend the lead over Eryk Goczal to 4-minutes, 17-seconds.

_ World Rally legend Sébastien Loeb of France won his fourth car stage in a row to place third, albeit nine minutes behind Brazilian Lucas Moraes. Reigning Dakar champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar remained solidly in the overall lead. A nine-time WRC winner, the 48-year-old Loeb said, “We had to change one wheel in the dunes, so it was a bit tricky to find a good place to do it and we lost a bit of time for it. For the rest, I had a good rhythm.”

_ The bike order once again was shuffled with Husqvarna rider Skyler Howes leading Toby Price of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing by just 28 seconds. Argentina’s Kevin Benavides slipped to third, 2-minutes, 44-seconds back.

_ Competitors will have zero outside assistance overnight with any necessary repairs before Friday’s Stage 12, which looms as another dune battle over 185-kilometers heading into the bivouac at Shaybah.

Jan. 11/Stage 10/Haradh-Shaybah/Distance-Total/Special: 623.94-kilometers/113-kilometers

Wednesday’s short, timed Stage 10 of the 45th Dakar Rally saw Kevin Benavides, Rokas Baciuška and Sébastien Loeb push their vehicles hard en route to Shaybah ahead of the crucial two-part Marathon Stage.

_ The 2023 race has reached the business end in the Empty Quarter, with 2021 Dakar winner and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing ace Kevin Benavides advancing into the lead of the bike race by 1-minute, 29-seconds. “I attacked before crashing and losing a few minutes there,” Benavides said, “then I went back on the offensive.”

_ Among the pack aiming to chase Benavides down during the Marathon Stage is KTM team-mate and two-time Dakar winner Toby Price, currently third at 2-minutes, 10-seconds behind. The 35-year-old Australian said, “Hopefully a few people will get in the mix of it. We’ll try and get some gaps.”

_ There was no change in T4, where Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team hold a 3-minute, 40-second lead over 18-year-old Eryk Goczal. Meanwhile, T3 category leaders Guillaume De Mevius/François Cazalet saw their advantage over A.J. Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin cut to 7-minutes, 48-seconds, with Jones’ fellow-Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crew of Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz victorious on the day.

_ Frenchman Sebastien Loeb claimed the 20th stage win of his brilliant Dakar career in the cars category, with Sweden’s Mattias Ekström second. “No mistakes, no problems,” said Loeb, 48. “Only dunes for more than 100-kilometers. It was quite long, quite demanding but the feeling was good.”

_ Competitors across all categories will now be separated from their mechanics from the beginning of Thursday’s Stage 11 until the conclusion of Friday’s Stage 12, featuring over 450-kilometers of racing through the Saudi Arabian desert.

Jan. 10/Stage 9/Riyadh-Haradh/Distance-Total/Special: 686-kilometers/358-kilometers

Tuesday’s resumption of the 45th Dakar Rally after a much-needed and appreciated rest day saw Sébastien Loeb, Lucas Moraes, Toby Price and Rokas Baciuška generate headline news in the Saudi Arabian desert.

_ With Monday’s Rest Day disappearing into the odd rearview mirror, Stage 9 arrived at the edge of the Empty Quarter desert with changes to the cars race podium. WRC legend Sebastien Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin bagged a win in their Prodrive BRX Hunter to advance into third overall. Rookie Lucas Moraes and co-driver Timo Gottschalk moved into second, just ahead of Loeb. “It was a good stage,” Loeb said. “Navigation was tough, especially where the motorbikes hadn’t left many lines. But it was not just us, it was complicated for everyone.”

_ It quickly became evident Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price maxed-out during the Rest Day, as the two-time Dakar winner from Australia finished just three seconds off the lead with teammate Kevin Benavides third. “It was good to be able to give it a hit today,” Price said.

_ T3 race-leader Guillaume De Mevius extended his advantage as the Belgian and co-driver François Cazalet capitalized on the chance to test their OT3 against a race truck en route to second. Meanwhile, the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crews of A.J. Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin and Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz remained second and third, respectively.

_ Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal still lead the T4 class after earning a second-place finish on Tuesday. “It was important to keep a healthy buggy, because we are going to the Empty Quarter,” said Baciuska, 23, of Lithuania. “It should be even more interesting.”

_ Wednesday’s Stage 10 features just 114-kilometers of timed racing _ a very short stint compared to the typical Dakar grinder. However, almost the entire distance is over the dangerous dunes of the Empty Quarter.

Dakar Rest Day

With competitors in the 45th Dakar Rally enjoying a well-earned break Monday in Riyadh between Stages 8 and 9, here’s a recap of the first week of traversing through the treacherous Saudi Arabian desert:

Stage 1 _ Legendary Carlos Sainz made a fast start in the cars class, while defending bikes champion Sam Sunderland crashed-out.

Stage 2 _ Reigning cars champ Nasser Al-Attiyah rebounded with a timely stage win.

Stage 3 _ Heavy rain prompted a day of upsets and washed-out the lightweights.

Stage 4 _ A grueling stage saw the first win of 2023 for Sébastien Loeb.

Stage 5 _ Nasser Al-Attiyah secured the outright lead while Toby Price and Kevin Benavides moved into podium positions on their motorcycles.

Stage 6 _ A massive 1,000-kilometer trek was marred by flooding; Stéphane Peterhansel crashed-out.

Stage 7 _ Nasser Al-Attiyah returned to the forefront of the cars class after acing a navigational challenge and bagging another stage win.

Stage 8 _ Sebastien Loeb claimed a dramatic cars stage win ahead of Carlos Sainz as competitors looked forward to Monday’s Rest Day.

They Said It

Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota Gazoo Racing (first place, cars) _ “It was a very important week for us, and now, for the second week, we need to be really careful to manage everything and bring it home.”

Lucas Moraes, Overdrive Racing (third place, cars) _ “It’s really amazing to be in this position. Even in all my best dreams, I never thought to be in third here at the Rest Day now, but we just kept plugging away and kept a good pace throughout the whole week. We never had a big problem, which is great. The car is amazing and Timo (Gottschalk, co-driver) is really smart sometimes. The strategy is working, and we’ve got to keep doing it.”

Toby Price, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (fourth place, bikes) _ “We lost a little bit of time on the last day, but I think our overall position is still decent. We’ll wait and see what the second week will bring.”

Overall Standings

Bikes _ 1, Skyler Howes, 30-hours, 34-minutes, 16-seconds; 2, Kevin Benavides, plus 13-seconds; 3, Mason Klein, plus 13-seconds.

Cars _ 1, Nasser Al-Attiyah, 31-hours, 2-minutes, 58-seconds; 2, Henk Lategan, plus 1-hour, 3-minutes, 56-seconds; 3, Lucas Moraes, plus 1-hour, 20-minutes, 22-seconds.

Trucks _ 1, Alez Loprais, 36-hours, 30-minutes, 58-seconds; 2, Martin Van Den Brink, plus 16-minutes, 17-seconds; 3, Janus Van Kasteren, plus 38-minutes, 3-seconds.

Quads _ Alexandre Giroud, 37-hours, 57-minutes, 4-seconds; 2, Manuel Andujar, plus 1-hour, 41-minutes, 37-seconds; 3, Pablo Copetti, plus 1-hour, 42-minutes, 12-seconds.

T3s _ 1, Guillaume de Mevius, 36-hours, 3-minutes, 9-seconds; 2, Austin Jones, plus 3-minutes, 19-seconds; 3, Seth Quintero, plus 1-hour, 2-minutes, 25-seconds.

T4s _ 1, Rokas Baciuska, 37-hours, 33-minutes, 31-seconds; 2, Marek Goczal, plus 4-minutes, 34-seconds; 3, Eryk Goczal, plus 5-minutes, 48-seconds.

Jan. 8/Stage 8/Al Duwadimi-Riyadh/Distance-Total/Special: 476-kilometers/346-kilometers

Sébastien Loeb secured a second victory Sunday via _ would you believe it? _ a speeding ticket issued in the vast expanse of the Saudi Arabian desert during Stage 8 of the 45th Dakar Rally, motorsports’ toughest test of endurance.

_ Despite hostile and unsettled weather conditions throughout the week, the convoy of competitors reached Riyadh on Sunday. In a bit of irony, Sebastien Loeb inherited the stage win after Carlos Sainz was handed a five-minute time penalty for speeding _ stripping him of first place. Meanwhile, defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah remained in P1 in his bid to win a fifth Dakar car title.

_ In the bike race, Kevin Benavides of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing enjoyed a productive day and now is just 13 seconds off the lead, while teammates Toby Price and Matthias Walkner are both in the top-10. “I started at the back and caught the guys at the front after the last refueling,” Benavides said. “Now we want to do our best in the second week.”

_ There also was a tease of the battle shaping up in the T3 race next week as Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver François Cazalet maintained their overall lead in the category. But that pair knows they will be full-court pressed _ as they were during Stage 8 _ by A.J. Jones and teammate Seth Quintero of Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich.

_ All remaining competitors will have 24 hours on Monday to rest, recover and tune their vehicles in anticipation of the second grueling week of the Dakar Rally.

Jan. 7/Stage 7/Riyadh-Al Duwadimi/Distance-Total/Special: 528-kilometers/333-kilometers

Nasser Al-Attiyah relentlessly remained on-course for a fifth Dakar Rally title Saturday, as Mitch Guthrie Jr. and Rokas Baciuška each secured wins during Stage 7.

_ While Stage 7 was cancelled for competitors on bikes and quads, there was no break for teams traversing the Saudi Arabian landscape on four wheels as cars, trucks and side-by-sides tackled the challenging route.

_ It was status quo at the front of the car race, as defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel hold an advantage of more than one hour over their closest competitors. “This was really not an easy stage,” said Al-Attiyah, 52, of Qatar. “We were really pushing a lot from the beginning. We lost a few minutes but we took care to put ourselves in a good position for tomorrow.”

_ It was another solid day for Rokas Baciuška of the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team as the Lithuanian and co-driver Oriol Mena secured a third stage win and now sit top of the overall T4 rankings.

_ Saturday’s stage also produced a hat-trick of wins for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich, courtesy of American Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch. The duo took the win after some tight racing against teammates Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz and race-leaders Guillaume De Mevius/François Cazalet.

_ Sunday is scheduled to see the bikes and quads rejoin the rally for Stage 8. A 345-kilometer timed special stage will be the final business of this Dakar’s first week.

Jan. 6/Stage 6/Ha’il-Riyadh/Distance-Total/Special: 560-kilometers/358-kilometers

Quick-thinkers Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toby Price and Guillaume De Mevius avoided mayhem during Friday’s dramatic Stage 6 of the 45th Dakar Rally, which was re-routed to Riyadh.

_ Stage 6 required the field to react in the moment over a shortened special stage and huge liaison route to Riyadh _ the course changed due to heavy flooding in the Al Duwadimi region of Saudi Arabia. Car leader Nasser Al-Attiyah scored a second consecutive stage win with co-driver Mathieu Baumel while Team Audi Sport rivals Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz saw their title hopes end in separate crashes.

A four-time Dakar champion, Al-Attiyah now has a lead of over one hour with rookie crew Lucas Moraes/Timo Gottschalk enjoying another solid day in third overall.

“We pushed a lot and for the last 40-kilometers we had a broken steering pump,” said Al-Attiayh, 52, of Qatar. “We lost steering and a lot of oil. Thankfully we could make it to the end of the stage.”

_ Less than 20 minutes separates the top eight riders in the bike race, as two-time winner Toby Price claimed third to consolidate second overall. Meanwhile, it was a productive day for Belgian Guillaume De Mevius and co-driver François Cazalet as they set the day’s fastest T3 time to increase their overall lead. And the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich crews of Seth Quintero/Dennis Zenz and A.J. Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin continued to shine.

_ There will be no bike race during Saturday’s reconfigured Stage 7 due to competitor fatigue, with the remainder of the convoy trekking from Riyadh to the Al Duwadimi bivouac via a 333-kilometer timed special. At the end of the special stage, competitors will be permitted two hours with their mechanics to sort out repairs. After that session, competitors only will head to the Al Duwadimi bivouac, where their vehicles will spend the night in parc fermé.

Jan. 5/Stage 5/Ha’il-Ha’il/Distance-Total/Special: 645.04-kilometers/373-kilometers

Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toby Price, Seth Quintero and Rokas Baciuška all starred during Thursday’s punishing Stage 5 of the 45th Dakar Rally, motorsport’s toughest test of endurance.

_ The compact sand of Stage 5 presented plenty of problems. However, the result couldn’t have gone much better for defending car champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel in their Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+. “It was a very tough stage,” said Al-Attiyah, 52, of Qatar. “We tried to push like crazy and took a lot of risk. Now we’re tired after pushing so much.”

_ The event organizers have permitted Team Audi Sport to increase the maximum power of its Audi RS Q e-tron E2 cars, with Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger and Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz both making use of the extra input to record the second and third-fastest times, respectively. The Frenchman said: “This was one of the hardest stages of my life. We took a lot of impact on the back and the neck.”

_Illness and collisions have shaken-up the bike standings, with leader Daniel Sanders of Australia forced to ride well within himself after waking up and feeling sick. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Toby Price and Argentine Kevin Benavides took advantage to move up to second and third overall. The 35-year-old Price said, “Barreda had a crash so we stopped for him for about five or six minutes to make sure he was all good. I also went down, so I’ve got to get my shoulder sorted for the next day.”

_ Spaniard Laia Sanz and co-driver Maurizio Gerini crashed-out but were unharmed. Also, Rally2 biker Camille Chapelière will return to his French home early to recover from an arm injury.

_ The T3 contest featured a fightback from Seth Quintero of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich. The 20-year-old American and co-driver Dennis Zenz moved within 15 minutes of race-leaders Guillaume De Mevius/François Cazalet.

_ Rokas Baciuška and co-driver Oriol Vidal scored another T4 stage win, with the 23-year-old Lithuanian moving 4-minutes, 33-seconds closer to the top of the leaderboard.

_ The Saudi Arabian odyssey from coast-to-coast continues during Friday’s Stage 6, with the 467-kilometer timed special stage including a barrage of dunes over the final third. 

Jan. 4/Stage 4/Ha’il-Ha’il/Distance-Total/Special: 574.01-kilometers/425-kilometers

Sébastien Loeb, Daniel Sanders and Mitch Guthrie Jr. eclipsed their rivals during Wednesday’s tricky Stage 4.

_ The relentless pace of the 2023 race through Saudi Arabia continued with 425-kilometers against the clock across camel grass, desert canyons and sand dunes. That was the landscape as Dakar heavyweights Sebastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin and Stéphane Peterhansel/Edouard Boulanger battled it out. Both crews led the stage at various points in the car category before nine-time WRC winner Loeb, of France, bolted over the finish line 13-seconds quicker than 14-time Dakar winner Peterhansel.

“We tried to push really hard on this stage,” Loeb said. “We were on full-attack all the time.”

_ Australian star Daniel Sanders finished eighth in the two-wheel category, a result good enough to claim the overall bike lead after the route had been drastically altered by heavy rain. “I haven’t really done any opening with roadbooks since the last Dakar,” said Sanders, 28. “It was tricky navigation.”

_ Another T3 stage win for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich went into the record books courtesy of American Mitch Guthrie Jr. and co-driver Kellon Walch. That pair now leads the T3 rankings followed by Guillaume De Mevius/François Cazalet in second and A.J. Jones/Gustavo Gugelmin in third.

“They took us up a lot of big dunes on this stage,” said Guthrie, 26, of Glendora, Calif. “My co-rider, Kellon, and me had to work really well together to decide which dunes to climb and which ones to go around.”

_ Thursday’s Stage 5 features 373-kilometers against the clock with a loop stage around the Ha’il bivouac. 

Jan. 3/Stage 3/Aluha-Ha’il/Distance-Total/Special: 669.15-kilometers/447-kilometers

Daniel Sanders, Austin Jones and Nasser Al-Attiyah battled treacherous weather-affected conditions during Tuesday’s Stage 3 of Dakar.

_ Rain totally disrupted Stage 3, with the last 100-kilometers washed away. However, defending car champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar built upon Monday’s Stage 2 victory with a solid drive to claim the overall lead while legendary Carlos Sainz of Spain was halted for almost half an hour in his Audi RS Q e-tron E2.

_ Australian Daniel Sanders excelled again as the Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing bike rider won to cut Mason Klein’s overall lead to 1-minute, 48-seconds. The 28-year-old Sanders _ known in the bivouac as “Chucky” _ said of his strategy, “The idea was to win the stage by catching the guys in front _ and it’s worked out really well.”

_ Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders have claimed the overall bike top-five thanks to Argentine Kevin Benavides, while teammates and fellow-former Dakar winners Toby Price and Matthias Walkner are in the top-10.

_ Despite conditions, solid results continued for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich. American Austin Jones won the stage while compatriot Seth Quintero took the overall T3 lead with Lithuanian Rokas Baciuška’s third-place in T4 boosting him to fourth overall.

_ Wednesday’s Stage 4 definitely will turn up the degree of difficulty via a 425-kilometer jaunt against the clock, the loop stage around the Ha’il bivouac starting with a chain of dunes measuring over 100-kilometers and several navigational pitfalls.

Jan. 2/Stage 2/Sea Camp-Aluha/Distance-Total/Special: 589.07-kilometers/430- kilometers

Nasser Al-Attiyah, Daniel Sanders and Mitch Guthrie excelled over Stage 2’s dangerous boulders in Saudi Arabia.

_ Over 400-kilometers during Monday’s Stage 2 brought competitors through dangerous boulders, as defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel cut into Carlos Sainz’s overall car lead with a victory in their Toyota Hilux T1+. The 52-year-old Al-Attiyah said, “Mathieu did a really good job with the navigation; it wasn’t easy today.”

_ BRX Hunter driver Sébastien Loeb forfeited over an hour to race-leader Sainz, while Sainz’s fellow-Team Audi Sport drivers Stéphane Peterhansel of France and Swede Mattias Ekström were both more than 30 minutes behind Al-Attiyah, of Qatar.

_ Australian Daniel Sanders eased off his bike throttle late to ensure an easier start to Stage 3, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price and Kevin Benavides also in the top-five overall. “I slowed down a bit because we already know that tomorrow is going to be another really tough day,” said Sanders, 28. “I wasn’t after the stage win today.”

_ American Mitch Guthrie of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA delivered a first stage win in his T3-M by MCE5 and a perfect birthday present for co-driver Kellon Walch. Guthrie, 26, said, “Kellon did great today with navigation and the car was awesome.”

_ Tuesday’s Stage 3 schedule points the convoy towards Ha’il via a timed special stage measuring 447-kilometers, a course featuring more big boulders and steep canyons to navigate before ending on the dunes.

Jan. 1/Stage 1/Sea Camp-Sea Camp

Sunday’s Stage 1 on the sands of Saudi Arabia saw the bike race’s defending champion crash out, while fresh-faced challengers excelled.

_ New Year’s Day rang-in with an ultra-tough 368-kilometer loop stage around the Dakar’s Sea Camp in Yanbu, with motorsports legend Carlos Sainz of Spain claiming his 42nd Dakar stage win in an Audi RS Q e-tron E2 alongside co-driver Lucas Cruz. The 60-year-old Sainz said, “We had one puncture at the beginning, so after that we proceeded with caution over the stones.”

_ Englishman Sam Sunderland’s defense of his bike title ended 52-kilometers into the stage with 2020 winner Ricky Brabec of the United States topping the timesheets. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Kevin Benavides and Toby Price were within a minute of Brabec, as well as Australian Daniel Sanders. “I kept clear of any big mistakes and just kept cruising; it was fun out there,” Sanders said.

_ Chilean Chaleco López’s Dakar started where his last one finished _ in the overall lead of the T3 category _ as the defending champ took the stage win for the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team alongside co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach. Meanwhile, Rokas Baciuška and Oriol Vidal delivered another winning result in the T4 category. The Lithuanian said, “This was just the first stage, but it already feels like proper Dakar.”

_ Monday’s Stage 2 will see the convoy leave Sea Camp and head east to Alula. Giant boulders and deep canyons will be featured throughout the 430-kilometer timed special stage as well as a chain of desert dunes.

Dec. 31/Prologue/Sea Camp-Sea Camp

Mattias Ekström, Cristina Gutiérrez and Toby Price starred during the opening Prologue.

_ A short, sharp 13-kilometer Saturday Prologue track on the shores of the Red Sea determined starting positions for Sunday’s 368-kilometer timed special stage. A total of 603 competitors in 355 vehicles were involved, mostly in less than 10 minutes, to launch the race.

_ Two-time DTM championship winner Mattias Ekström of Sweden piloted his Audi RS Q e-tron E2 for the first time, recording the day’s fastest time across all categories (eight minutes) to claim an early lead in the T1 car class standings.

_ In the T3 race, Cristina Gutiérrez set the fastest time with co-driver Pablo Moreno as she looks to improve on third place overall at the previous Dakar. The Spaniard, 31, said, “I’m feeling really happy with the car and team; the mentality is really positive.”

_ Former bike champion Toby Price won for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team with Australian compatriot Daniel Sanders in second.

Nightly coverage of Dakar in the United States began Sunday, Jan. 1, at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Peacock and will 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 Saturday, January 14 2023
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