The Dakar Rally

Stage 10: Haradh > Shaybah

Wednesday, 11 January 2023
642 km (Liaison: 510 km + Special: 114 km)

Early news today is that, after the damage to his car proved too heavy to repair overnight, Carlos Sainz Snr. has withdrawn his Audi from the Dakar and will not resume the event.

Here we go. The realm of the dunes has been the focus of conversation for several months now. The Dakar entrants got a taste of the Empty Quarter three years ago, when the rally nibbled at the edges of the area. This year, the race is entering this vast expanse of sand for real over four days, starting with a dune-surfing warm-up stretching for 114 kilometres and containing almost nothing but toboggan runs.

After a long road section leading to this remote place near the border with the United Arab Emirates, it was an undulating terrain specialist who came out on top in the motorbike category. Ross Branch, aka the “Ferrari of the Kalahari”, set the best time, while Sébastien Loeb won the car stage, as he always does when he manages to avoid any mistakes.


Stage 11: Shaybah > Empty Quarter Marathon Bivouac

Thursday, 12 January 2023
427 km (Liaison: 153 km + Special: 274 km)

The Marathon Stage of Dakar is, essentially, one long stage run over two days, with a break inbetween. Competitors reaching the bivouac today are alone. There are no support crew or mechanics there to help them. They are allowed a one-hour period in which they can work on their vehicle themselves. The second half of the stage then continues tomorrow.

The much-awaited day of the plunge into the Empty Quarter has arrived. After running along the border with the United Arab Emirates yesterday, today it was the turn of the Sultanate of Oman from where the riders, drivers and crews found themselves a stone’s throw away on their way to the marathon camp, a bivouac without the assistance teams.

In this immense desert expanse, the rally’s competitors were offered 275 kilometres of special, with a wealth of dunes, naturally, but also gigantic chotts allowing the participants to try and hit the maximum authorised speed limits: 160 kmph for the bikes and 170 kmph for the cars.

Luciano Benavides was comfortable on both types of terrain and clearly demonstrated that he is among the men to keep an eye on in his category, something that was already well known as regards the inexhaustible Sébastien Loeb .


Stage 12: Empty Quarter Marathon > Shaybah

Friday, 13 January 2023
376 km (Liaison: 191 km + Special: 185 km)

The Empty Quarter continues to reveal its identity. The immense desert that plays host to most of the oil deposits exploited in Saudi Arabia is also a special playground for rally-raid riders and drivers to express themselves. The expanses of dunes discovered by the Dakar this year have few equivalents on the surface of the planet. However, the 185-km programme for the special was not restricted to the tricky exercise of overcoming the dunes, because when the route crossed the chotts it allowed the competitors to push the pace of their vehicles to the limits. It was certainly thanks to his technique acquired in the dunes of the Atacama Desert in Chile that Nacho Cornejo achieved the day’s victory on his bike. Sébastien Loeb, who put in another faultless performance among the mountains of sand made the difference thanks to his great strength: he goes for it like nobody else.

Five stage wins in a row :exploding_head: Loeb must be rueing his bad luck in the early stages. Only the second ever to achieve that stat. And still two more short stages to set a new record.

Saffer car teams still running strong in the Top 10. May not be enough Special stage distance left to push for a SA flag on the podium, but will still be a good result for them. There’s a few more ZAF tags further down the field too. And a good handful are also still running in the bikes classes.


Stage 13: Shaybah > Al-Hofuf

Saturday, 14 January 2023
675 km (Liaison: 521 km + Special: 154 km)

To pay tribute to the Empty Quarter and bid it a dignified farewell, the penultimate special was held to the south of Shaybah, in a vast and beautiful expanse of sand with chains of dunes as far as the eye can see.

Kevin Benavides leveraged his flair and adaptability to drag himself back into contention for the title in this final dune-surfing test, mixed with a return to gravel tracks at the end of the course, which set the stage for the most evenly matched dash to the line in Dakar history.

Sébastien Loeb, on the other hand, will have to settle for second overall despite showing his well-rounded skills with a whitewash of specials in the Empty Quarter, where he also smashed a record held by Ari Vatanen since 1989. Not bad.

The penultimate stage and Loeb makes it six in a row. A catastrophic stage for Brian Baragwantha though. His rollover accident and subsequent delay for repairs and the time penalty for not making the cutoff time for the bivouac means he falls from his consistent Top 10 all the way down to P74 overall. It can be cruel this rally.

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Stage 14: Al-Hofuf > Dammam

Sunday, 15 January 2023
417 km (Liaison: 281 km + Special: 136 km)

The Dakar has taken the field on a trip around the Red Sea coast several times, including at the beginning of the 2023 edition, which will come to a close on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. This is an unusually fast beach special with little to no room for big changes in the standings. The competitors just need to bring it home to join the celebrations on the seafront podium.

All eyes on the GP Bikes during todays final sprint stage. The start order on the final day is in reverse order of overall standings, so Price and Benavides will be the last two to leave the line. With just 12 seconds between them, it’s going to be close.

Follow the finishers as they arrive at the end.

Dakar Finishers Podium Live:

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Stage 14: Al-Hofuf > Dammam

Sunday, 15 January 2023
417 km (Liaison: 281 km + Special: 136 km)

The 45th edition of the Dakar has come to an end in Dammam after 14 stages that saw dramatic turnarounds in every category. Nasser Al Attiyah’s victorious campaign did not come as a surprise, but his first successful title defence earned him the fifth triumph of his career and the distinction of winning by the widest margin seen in the car race in 20 years. Second at 1 h 20, Sébastien Loeb bent the knee to the Qatari, but he also added his name to the Dakar record books with a string of six consecutive stage wins (seven in total).

The scenario that unfolded in the motorbike race was even crazier. In a first for the category, Kevin Benavides seized the lead on the very last day, knocking Toby Price from the top of the general standings to prevail by 43 seconds, the narrowest winning margin ever in the Dakar.

Similarly, in the SSVs, the youngest Dakar entrant ever benefited from a massive plot twist in the last stage, as the leader, Rokas Baciuška, surrendered the top spot to the 18-year-old Pole Eryk Goczał, who will share the podium with his father, Marek, in third place. A family that races together stays together.

In T3, victory went to Austin Jones, who had already brought the T4 trophy home last year, while the truck title went to Janus van Kasteren, the first Dutch winner of the race since Gerard de Rooy in 2016.

The winners and all the other competitors who showed their resolve to complete this gruelling route will be feted this evening at the podium ceremony in Ithra, at the cultural centre built by Aramco to mark the 75th anniversary of the company, which joined the Dakar as a major partner this year.

235 of the 355 vehicles that started the 2023 Dakar have made it to the finish: 80 motorbikes (out of 121), 10 quads (18), 46 T1 and T2 cars (67), 38 lightweight prototypes (47), 39 SSVs (45) and all 22 trucks, along with 80 out of 88 crews in the third edition of the Dakar Classic, the regularity race for 20th-century vehicles.

South Africans having a huge Dakar - in the cars, on the bikes, and even on the vehicle build side.


Some amazing shots there, great camera work.

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Red Bull Rally and Dakar Rally Official video highlighting the 2024 Dakar Rally Route.

Snapshot of the overall route: