Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Mário Patrão keeps podium in 12th stage

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After a brilliant victory yesterday in the Original By Motul class, Mário Patrão concluded today the 12th stage, disputed between Empty Quarter and Shaybah in a total of 376.46 km, 185 of which were timed, in the third position.

The pilot supported by CRÉDITO AGRÍCOLA is still on the podium in the general classification among pilots who have the arduous task of doing the mechanics to their own vehicles, but with their "eyes set" on the possibility of climbing the classification.

For Mário Patrão, who also has the support of LUSÍADAS SAÚDE, today's journey "went well, with no problems to report. The course had huge dunes and 'dry lakes'. The tiredness is felt because, besides the specials, the connections have been big, although today's was not the biggest, and then I still have all the maintenance associated with the bike in order to prepare it for the next day. These logistics always force us to make good choices and good management among all the factors so that we can follow firmly in our objective and not throw everything away. This is what we have been trying to do. There are two days left until the end of the race. We remain focused on our goal and on what's to come," points out the World Cross Country Rallies Veterans Champion, supported by ABRIGO DA MONTANHA HOTEL.

The 14th and penultimate stage, connecting Shaybah to Al-Hofuf, will have a 154 km special stage and a long connection of 521 km. By this time, the departure from the Empty Quarter will be decisive. This will be the last chance to enjoy the dunes. On the other hand, it could also be a launch pad for an ambitious competitor ready to fight for the podium and move up a place or two in the standings. The short special limits the potential for damage, but physical and mechanical strength can still make the difference.


Automatic translation from the original Portuguese version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source Mario Patrao official press release

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Lorenzo Santolino is close to the top 10, two stages from the end of the event.

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  • The Spaniard, who finished 18th today, is eight minutes from tenth place with 290 kilometers of special to go in two days.

For this second part of the marathon stage, the route was similar to that of yesterday, large dunes intersecting the immensity of the desert and the large plateaus, 185 kilometers of special and a long liaison of more than 300 kilometers.
Our Sherco rider started in the lead this morning, after his eighth place yesterday and he was able to take advantage of the tracks left by the drivers who preceded him. After several days of dunes, Santolino began to enjoy the sand of Empty Quarter. 11th overall, his goal is now to catch up with Mason Klein to enter the top 10.
"The day was quite short, similar to Thursday's stage. I felt good, I adapted to the pace, I tried to ride hard in the areas where the visibility was good and stay a little calmer in the more difficult areas. I felt comfortable and I didn't make any piloting or navigation errors. In the end, it's fun to ride in these dunes, especially when there are tracks in front of you and you can anticipate what to expect. I had a great time.”
On January 14th, the 13th stage, will start at the "empty quarter", but the dunes will always be in the spotlight, with long strips of sand. There will be 154 kilometers of special and a long seemingly endless liaison of more than 500 kilometers for riders who are already exhausted.

Ranking for the day:
Lorenzo Santolino: P18, +5mn 48s
Cumulative ranking:
Lorenzo Santolino: P11, +1h 02mn
Tomorrow the riders will set off for the 13th stage, 675 km from Shaybah to Al-Hofuf including 154 km of special.

Source Sherco Factory Racing

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Isidre Esteve goes into attack mode

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  • The Repsol Toyota Rally Team driver made a great comeback after riding at a fast pace and climbing from 113th place in the starting order to 25th in the standings of the 12th stage of the Dakar Rally.
  • The Spaniard and his co-driver Txema Villalobos have changed tactics for the remainder of the Dakar and will be looking for good stage results for the rest of the race.
  • "There are two stages left and we will ride to the maximum, as we did today," says Esteve.

Isidre Esteve and Txema Villalobos have completed the 185 kilometers of the second segment of the marathon stage showing a great pace and leaving behind the technical problems of yesterday. The Repsol Toyota Rally Team crew, who started in position 113 of the agenda, has signed a great comeback to conclude the special in 25th place scratch, and 19th of T1. In the overall standings they are 35th overall and 25th in T1.

After the complications of the previous day, the sun came out again for the Repsol Toyota Rally Team drivers. And it did so after a long night, as Isidre Esteve explained: "If it hadn't been for Txema, who made a bridge in the middle of yesterday's special stage to save the problem with a part of the starter motor, we would have spent many hours waiting for the T5 in the dunes. When the race assistance truck (T5) arrived at the bivouac at one o'clock in the morning, they gave us a new unit so that we could change it and continue today without any problems".

The three hours lost yesterday forced the Spanish driver to revise his race strategy, starting with the stage back to Shaybah: "We started very far back and with a lot of dust, especially on the track and the chotts, but this did not alter our decision to attack from the first kilometer and, although it was difficult to overcome the large number of cars and buggies ahead of us, we managed to do so. The biggest difficulty of the special stage was a string of pink sand dunes that was very disturbed by the passing of the caravan, but we overcame it thanks to the car, which is performing extraordinarily well in this terrain".

The driver from Lleida now hopes to keep up the pace for the rest of the Dakar: "It's a real shame what happened yesterday, because our race plan was 100% on track and we were where we wanted to be. Now, there are two stages left and we will go to the maximum. We feel strong enough to do it and the car allows us to do it. We just have to raise the level and attack".

The 13th stage of the Dakar will lead the caravan in the direction of Al-Hofuf, leaving the Empty Quarter after completing 154 timed kilometers, which include the last dune passes of the week.


Automatic translation from the original Portuguese version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source Repsol Rally Team

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - No Paraskavedekatria phobia - Moraes and Gottschalk consolidade rank on "Dakar" podium

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  • No fear of Friday the 13th - Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk master third "Dakar" stage in Empty Quarter
  • Mighty dunes, sand in all shapes, colors and flavors: 167 kilometers of hard work for man and machine
  • Brazilian-Brandenburg duo finishes third in Dakar Rally, sensational podium within reach

Realism instead of superstition: As expected, Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk lost second place in the overall standings at the 2023 Dakar Rally, but at the same time greatly improved their chances of a sensational podium. In any case, there was no cause for paraskavedekatriaphobia - the fear of Friday the 13th - because the Brazilian-Brandenburg duo brought their Toyota Hilux to the finish as usual without any major mishap or technical problem, finished tenth on the twelfth stage and thus continue to rank surprisingly on the podium. They merely countered the attack by Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin (FRA/BEL, Prodrive), who had recently won five special stages in a row, with controlled risk. With a view to the big picture, a possible top-three finish, this was a well-chosen strategy: Moraes/Gottschalk also extended their lead over their fourth- and fifth-placed brand colleagues to just under an hour.

The twelfth day of the Dakar Rally turned out to be like the eleventh: Mainly held in steep dunes and interrupted by fast passages over bulkheads, soft sand was the dominant element. All levels of difficulty were demanded of the competitors in terms of surfing and crossing the dunes. The special stage was the conclusion of a trilogy in the Empty Quarter. Over the next two days, the "Dakar" will now work its way back northwest over the remaining 290 kilometers of the special stage, where the finish awaits on Sunday in the Persian Gulf.

Automatich translation from the original German version
Source Dakar.direct

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Nasser and Mathieu steady at the top

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  • Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel increase overall lead to 1hr 27min 10sec
  • Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy cements 4th position
  • Significant time loss for Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings after Stage 12 rollover

While overall race leaders, TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel, continued their run of solid stage results, teammates Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings had a rollover in their GR DKR Hilux T1+ early in Stage 12, causing some damage and losing nearly 30min as a result. This allowed Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy to move up into 4th in the overall standings, with just two stages to go.

Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally brought the competitors back from the Empty Quarter bivouac to the encampment at Shaybah, where the technical crews were waiting to service and repair the team’s three race cars after the two-day Marathon section of this year’s rally. While the stage was only 185km in length, it proved a stern test nonetheless.

For overall race leaders, Nasser and Mathieu, completing Stage 12 was another box ticked in their relentless march to the city of Dammam, and the finish of the rally. The pair took the lead in the race during Stage 2, and have not relinquished that position to date. With only two stages remaining, they have the end in sight, but remain respectful of the shifting desert dunes that mark the final days of the event.

The same dunes caught out teammates Henk and Brett on Stage 12; an early-stage low-speed roll in soft sand, causing damage to the right rear upright and brake disc of their car, and costing them a place in the overall standings. They were eventually classified in 73rd place on the stage, relinquishing 48min 35sec to the stage winners, after losing more time due to the rear brakes not working after the incident. This leaves them in 5th overall, 12min behind Giniel and Dennis; and 2hr 34min 21sec adrift of the lead.

While Henk and Brett were bitterly disappointed to lose time so close to the end of the rally, both of them commented on the toughness of the GR DKR Hilux T1+, which not only protected them during the accident, but also completed the stage despite the damage sustained earlier.

Giniel de Villiers and Dennis Murphy, in the #205 car, completed Stage 12 without mishap. The pair went 9th-fastest on the stage, trailing the leaders to the finish by 11min 34sec in the end. With teammates Henk and Brett in trouble, Giniel and Dennis moved up to 4th overall in the rankings, 2hr 22min 21sec behind Nasser and Mathieu.

The penultimate stage of Dakar 2023 is up next, and this one is set between the bivouac near Shaybah and the border town of Al-Hofuf to the north. At only 154km in length, Stage 13 may sound short, but the competitors expect another tough test, before a slightly easier day leading to the finish in Dammam on January 15th.

Glyn Hall, TGR Dakar Team Principal: “Another solid day for Nasser and Mathieu, who have shown the maturity and restraint of true champions. They brought the car home after the Marathon Stage with barely a mark on it, and very little for the service crews to do. Giniel and Dennis also did what was required, and they’re cemented in fourth place now with two stages to go. Unfortunately, Henk and Brett had a rollover early in the stage, and lost a position in the overall ranking as a result. They are bitterly disappointed, but we still have all three our cars in the Top 5, so we’re very happy at this point.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah: “With the Marathon Stage of yesterday and today, the main priority for us was to make sure the car gets back to Shaybah safely. I’m quite happy as it stands, and we remain in control of the race at this point. All that we have to focus on now is to bring the car to the finish, as we still have a comfortable lead. Our Hilux is truly amazing, and we have a lot of pace left in the tank. If we need to push, we can push, but as long as we don’t need to take any risks, we certainly won’t.”

Giniel de Villiers: “We’re happy to be back, after two tough stages. They weren’t very long, but there were many tricky sandy sections and dunes that could catch you out easily. It was important to get through these two days without problems, and we managed to do that. Now, we have two more days to go, and I fully expect at least one of them to be quite tough as well.”

Henk Lategan:We had a rollover early in the stage, after hitting an awkward bump following a dune section. Thankfully both of us were uninjured, as it was a low-speed accident. We made all the running repairs needed to get going again, even though we had no rear brakes. It was a struggle to get the car to the end, but I’m glad we eventually made it to the bivouac.”


Source Toyota Gazoo Racing SA / Toyota South Africa

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Double Century Dakar top ten  

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 Both CR6-Ts in top ten, Baragwanath leads 4x2s

South African rally raid team Century Racing has both its all-new Audi turbo V6 powered CR6-Ts in the 2023 Dakar Rally top ten with only two stages left. Brian Baragwanath and navigator Leonard Cremer lead the rear-wheel drive T1.2 class in seventh overall, with French teammates Mathieu Serradori and notes man Loic Minaudier up to ninth and a close third in class.

South African crew Baragwanath and Cremer endured two frustrating days in 24th Thursday and twelfth on Friday but consolidated their T1.2 4x2 class lead and eighth overall ahead of closest rivals Wi Han and Ma Li’s Hanwei SMG. “We had a good stage but got stuck on the last big dune lost us time on Thursday,” Brian explained. “We got stuck again and lost five minutes in Friday’s first tricky section, and the engine ran a bit hot from there but never lost power. “We fought home through some tricky terrain to learn that some rivals had an even worse day, and that we’re up to seventh with Mattieu now ninth! “Its just 290 km and two days left, so to get home as we are, would be huge!”

Frenchmen Serradori and Minaudier enjoyed two good days aboard their Factory CR6-T, with eighth on Thursday and sixth on Friday. They moved to ninth overall, just minutes behind T1.2 rival Wi Han’s SMG. “We had two good days to climb up from twelfth to ninth overall with both cars in the top ten,” Mathieu pointed out. “We lost a little time with a rear damper issue on Thursday and the race truck with the spare was stuck in the dunes, but Brian helped us repair it at the isolated marathon bivouac. “We also suffered with sluggish throttle response on Friday. “These last two days should be epic – we must fight hard for that T1.2 4x2 class 1-2!”

“That was a brilliant job and a huge relief to get both cars home after one of the most difficult marathon stages in years,” Century Racing team boss Julien Hardy admitted. “Their performance belies the fact that we only shook down both brand new and untested CR6-Ts with unproven engines here in Saudi just before the start.
We’re learning the new cars as we go and dealing with teething issues as they come up. “Mathieu says engine response is poor low down, but we felt that it was just too risky to use anti-lag on this Dakar without much testing. “It could potentially break the turbos with so much second gear in the dunes, so we made the call to not risk it. It is something we will definitely develop in preparation for next year’s Dakar.
Dampers have succumbed to extreme temperatures, possibly beyond 160°C after they were possibly overworked. “We have also had to deal with tyre pressure system and jack challenges; cooling, and engine drive belt, and a few other issues. “All that has made this Dakar into something of a super test session!But both cars are home from the marathon and 12 days racing, which is a big relief for the team. “Best of all, both are well into the top ten overall, and we’re leading and a close third in the rear-drive T1.2 category. “We are hugely proud of that as the tiny privateer team we are, so we are justifiably anxious to get this last two days and 290 km out the way, but bring it on!”

Of the army of privateer Century entries, MotoGP hero Carlos Checa and Marc Terradellas’ Astara CR6 was 27th on Thursday and 38th Friday to sit 23rd overall. Antoine Galland and David Kripal’s ORC CR6 impressed again with 32nd Thursday and 39th on Friday to move up to 31st overall. Lady racer Laia Sanz and Fabrizio Gerini’s Astara CR6 was 35th and 23rd to sit 33rd in the general rankings.

French rookies Yannick and Valérie Panagiotis’ FJ C CR6 were the Thursday stars as they stormed home an excellent 23rd in what was supposed to be their Empty Quarter dune baptism of fire. Trained by Baragwanath on the arts of dune driving in Namibia, they came home ahead of their factory rival, before ending 36th on Friday to sit a respectable 36th overall on debut.

Dutch twins Tim and Tom Coronel continued to swap out their CR6’s driver’s seat to end
25th on both Thursday Friday. They sit back in 45th overall after recovering from a big crash late in the first week. Sergio Vallejo and Mario Gozalez Tome’s similar extreme Dakar adventures however came to an end when they were forced to retire after Stage 10.


Century Racing Factory Team is proudly sponsored by Fortinet, SRT, R53 Suspension, International Race Supplies, AP Racing, ALDO, CEMS Consult, Trollope Mining, ATS Racing Supplies, OMP, Mecad - Solidworks SA, Sadev, Ekoil, Caltex Havoline SA and Houss.


Source Century Racing via Motorsport Media

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Dakar 2013: Stage 12 - Tire management crucial for Tim and Tom Coronel

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In the twelfth stage of the Dakar Rally 2023 it was all about tire management. Too hard and the car got stuck in the sand or could not come up on a dune, too soft and they could pop or come off. Tom Coronel proved to be an excellent tire manager in these 185 kilometres, to Tim’s joy and satisfaction, who could therefore make full use of his steering skills.

The special stage of the twelfth stage was not long, but could cause more than enough problems. The speed on the chotts (dried salt plains) asked for more pressure in the tires, while the soft dunes asked for low pressure and more tread. That required skill and concentration, but also a good sense of the car, traction and the terrain.

“I have that,” Tom Coronel knew. “Because I am also a driver, I know what I feel and how it should feel. As a navigator I also see what kind of terrain is coming and I can anticipate. I know how that game is played.”

By constantly adjusting the tire pressure, Tim was helped a lot. “Tom really did that very well. I didn’t have to ask for anything. It was good before I realised I needed it. This allowed me to fully concentrate on driving and finding the right pace to get over the dunes. They were soft, big dunes. And because we drove around noon and the sun was high, it was hard to see where the holes were. But we were not stuck once.”

Only in the last 15 kilometres did Tom and Tom have had to get out of the car, because the tire pressure system at the front left was broken and caused a puncture. “We simply screwed the system off,” says Tom. “That took about 20 minutes. A pity, because we drove around twentieth position and it went really well.”

In addition to managing tires, Tom had already emerged as a motor manager in the marathon bivouac by repairing the engine error, with the help of Brian Baragwanath, factory driver and test driver from Century. “We have used a different management program,” says Tom, as if it was something he does every day. “It turned out to be the sensor for shifting gears, so we used another mapping. Problem solved.”

After two pretty tough stages and a night without the care of the mechanics, both the car and Tim and Tom are in need of service. An early finish of the stage – Tim and Tom were at the finish of the special around 12.30 am local time – also gave an opportunity for that. On Saturday, the penultimate ride of this Dakar is on the program, from Shaybah to Al Hofuf over 669 kilometres, of which 154 count for the competition.

Source Coronel Dakar Team

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Dakar 2013: Stage 12 - Good end of marathon stage for Laia Sanz

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  • The KH-7 rider was satisfied with her riding in the dunes, although a snag while dodging another vehicle caused her to lose 10 minutes.
  • "We are very happy with how we did today, even though the result doesn't reflect it".
  • "We went very well and got through all the tricky parts, even though we got snagged once in a place that wasn't difficult so as not to hit a Can-Am."

The second part of the marathon stage ended with good feelings for Laia Sanz. The KH-7 rider played her cards right to overcome the demands of two special stages in a row between which the mechanics were not allowed to help. The rider from Corbera de Llobregat has thus completed another day in a Dakar Rally 2023 in which she has had to overcome one challenge or another every day.

In this 12th stage -the antepenultimate stage of this edition-, the biggest difficulty was again the huge dunes that defined part of the 185 kilometers of the timed route. If on the previous day Sanz struggled and suffered three snags, this Friday she rode with more ease and confidence, with the determination not to lose time pulling a shovel.

The Catalan and her co-driver Maurizio Gerini started well, with a solid pace, and rode in times in the top 15 in the first 42 kilometers, which presaged a good comeback. But shortly after the first reference point, the Spanish-Italian duo got stuck in a dune after being obstructed by a light buggy, a small setback that caused them to lose about 10 minutes. In a short stage like today's, this delay caused them to drop about thirty positions to 49th place after crossing the finish line, 34'58" behind the leader.

Despite the result, the KH-7 driver made a positive reading of the day: "We are very happy with how we did today, although the result does not reflect it. Today we started with more pace than yesterday, but taking care of the car, which was already a bit touched from the first part of the marathon. We went very well and we overcame all the complicated parts, although we got stuck once in a place that was not difficult not to hit a Can-Am. The downside is that the hydraulic jack didn't work and it took us a little longer than usual, but we're satisfied".

This Saturday, the Dakar will enter its 13th and penultimate stage, which will take the riders from Shaybah to Al-Hofuf, with a total of 673, of which 153 will correspond to the timed special stage, mostly over dunes.

Stage results
1. Sebastien Loeb (Prodrive) 1h 56’21”
2. Mattias Ekström (Audi) +03’19”
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) +03’31”
4. Guerlain Chicherit (Prodrive) +07’13”
5. Jakub Przygonski (Mini) +08’02”
49. Laia Sanz (ASTARA) +34’58”

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) 41h 16’25”
2. Sebastien Loeb (Prodrive) +1h 27’10”
3. Lucas Moraes (Toyota) +1h 29’11”
4. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +2h 22’21”
5. Henk Lategan (Toyota) +2h 34’21”

69. Laia Sanz (ASTARA) +18h 49’05”


Automatic translation from the original Portuguese version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source KH-7 / Laia Sanz

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Dakar 2023: Stage 12 - Kuba Przygonski finishes fifth

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  • Halpern now eleventh overall
  • Only two days to the finish in Dammam

With the twelfth stage, the participants returned from the marathon stage. The way to Shaybah leads them again through the "Empty Quarter" and over numerous dunes. After 185 special stage kilometres, Jakub "Kuba" Przygonski and Armand Monleon finished fifth in the MINI JCW Rally Plus. Their teammates Sebastian Halpern and Bernardo "Ronnie" Graue finished the day in 13th place, while Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov finished 18th in the MINI JCW Buggy. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ola Floene finished 20th.

Kuba Przygonski: "We found a good rhythm straight away. Today there were again many - especially high - dunes. At one point we had to go up about 100 metres. We were able to overtake a competitor. However, because of the regulations, we lack some power compared to the cars at the front."

Sebastian Halpern: "The dunes yesterday were very technical. That suited Ronnie and me. Today there were a lot of fast sections. I'm not completely happy with the result. But I am happy that we are eleventh overall. Ten days ago we were still in 46th place. The next two days we'll really step on the gas and maybe we'll still manage tenth place."

The competitors have only two days to go until Dammam, the finish city of the 2023 Dakar Rally, but tomorrow will be a long day: 521 km of liaison stage and 154 km of special stage await the crews on the way to Al-Hofuf. The stage features the last dunes of this year's Dakar edition.

Dakar Rally 2023 - result SS12
1. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – BRX – 1h 56m 21s
2. M. Ekström / E. Bergkvist – Audi – 1h 59m 40s
3. N. Al-Attiyah / M. Baumel – Toyota – 1h 59m 52s
4. G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – BRX – 2h 03m 34s
5. J. Przygonski / A. Monleon – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 2h 04m 23s

13. S. Halpern / B. Graue – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 2h 12m 19s

18. D. Krotov / K. Zhiltsov – MINI JCW Buggy – 2h 18m 40s

20. Sh. K. Al-Qassimi / O. Floene – MINI JCW Buggy – 2h 24m 56s

Overall standings after SS12
1. N. Al-Attiyah / M. Baumel – Toyota – 41h 16m 25s
2. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – BRX – 42h 43m 35s
3. L. Moraes / T. Gottschalk – Toyota – 42 45m 36s
4. G. de Villiers / D. Murphy – Toyota – 43h 38m 46s
4. H. Lategan / B. Cummings – Toyota – 43h 50m 46s

11. S. Halpern / B. Graue – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 45h 51m 24s

15. Sh. K. Al-Qassimi / O. Floene – MINI JCW Buggy – 47h 59m 12s

20. J. Przygonski / A. Monleon – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 48h 41m 45s
21. D. Krotov / K. Zhiltsov – MINI JCW Buggy – 49h 02m 39s


Source X-Raid

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Dakar 2023: Video - Stage 11 highlights

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Mechanical problem delays Hélder Rodrigues in the 11th stage

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A longer stop to solve a mechanical problem slowed today the performance of Hélder Rodrigues in the 11th stage of the Dakar 2023 Rally which linked Shaybah to Empty Quarter. Even so, the "star" was 12th among T3 in a special stage, with 273 chronometrical km, the first part of a complex marathon journey which will last until tomorrow.

With a very demanding course that crossed the long strands of dunes in the Empty Quarter region, Hélder Rodrigues counted, once again, with the excellent navigation of Gonçalo Reis, having pointed out that "we took a little longer than usual to solve a mechanical problem and that's all that prevented us from finishing better classified, but we remain focused on rolling at a good pace", revealed Helder Rodrigues at the end of the day in which, because it was a Marathon stage, they couldn't count on the usual assistance team from South Racing to overhaul their Can-Am.

Tomorrow the 12th stage of the Dakar Rally 2023 will be held, the antepenultimate stage of this edition of the race which is being held in Saudi Arabia. The 185km special stage, which will be the second part of the marathon stage, will test the tactics and acumen of the competitors, who will again face a course composed of many dunes.


Automatic translation from the original Portuguese version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source Helder Rodrigues official press release

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - On a comeback mission

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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.

Hazards, blunders and blows are so frequent in the rally-raid discipline that they make all predictions risky. This rule is as valid a month before the Dakar as it is just the day before and is still rightly on everybody’s minds merely a few days before the finish. This is evident to see from the bike rankings, in which the leader again changed today, with Kevin Benavides having only occupied the summit of the hierarchy for a day. The winner in 2021 was dethroned by Skyler Howes but is still in the reckoning for the title, trailing by only 2’44’’, though his team-mate at KTM Toby Price is even better placed, with a slim gap of merely 28’’. This closeness in the race against the clock among the elite has especially whetted the appetite of Luciano Benavides, who trailed behind his rivals during the first week due to several lost minutes, but is showing himself to be the man in form at present. The Husqvarna rider gave a demonstration on the dunes of the Empty Quarter to become the first triple stage winner in the category this year and is beginning to get seriously close to the riders in front of him whose places are well within his reach. The little brother has well and truly grown up and is now in 6th place, hot on the heels of Adrien Van Beveren, who made the day’s biggest losses and now has a gap of more than 15 minutes between himself and Skyler Howes, the other upwardly mobile official Husqvarna rider. Luciano Benavides' progress may be more likely to be successful, but it is less spectacular than Sébastien Loeb's. The Frenchman is inexorably closing in on the second place occupied by Lucas Moraes, though the Brazilian is jealously clinging on to his position and still has a nine-minute advantage in spite of the festival displayed by the man from Alsace currently taking top billing in Saudi Arabia. With victory on the first part of the marathon stage, Sébastien Loeb has obtained a fourth consecutive success on a special. Such a series has not been achieved previously in the elite of the car category since Carlos Sainz (2009), Ari Vatanen (5 stages in a row in 1989, then 4 in 1990) and Jacky Ickx (in 1982, 1983 and 1984). Admittedly, the WRC rally victory record holder claims not to be interested in statistics, but in this case such whittling away is eye-catching. It may not, however, be sufficient to put enough pressure on Nasser Al Attiyah to destabilise him, given that he sits on a cushion of one and a half hours and will be able to enjoy an untroubled night’s sleep under the stars at the marathon bivouac. This will not be the case for Guillaume de Mevius, whose duel with Austin Jones at the summit of the T3 category came to an end after forty kilometres due to a mechanical problem that lost the Belgian one and a half hours. After triumphing in the T4 race last year, the American has a free rein to make his change of category a success. As the Can-Am team look to the future, they may well be breaking out in cold sweat in light of the 1-2-3 finish accomplished by the Yamahas on the day’s stage (see performance of the day). In the T4 race, however, the match between world champion Rokas Baciuška and his 18-year-old challenger Eryk Goczał is in full swing. The advantage swung in the favour of Lithuania on stage 11, won by Rokas by a slim margin of 37’’, taking his lead in the general rankings to 4’17’’, but it is still all to play for in the SSV category. Janus Van Kasteren will also have difficulty controlling his lead in the truck category over the next few days, with an advantage of only 1’12’’ over Martin van den Brink, the winner of today’s stage.

Several days ago, João Ferreira gave Yamaha its very first stage victory on the Dakar, a fine performance for the brand-new prototype from the Iwata factory making its debut in the T3 category. Behind its rather mysterious codename, the YXZ1000R Turbo is powered by an engine derived from one of the brand’s snowmobiles. In the Empty Quarter with its unending sea of dunes, what could be better than a “sand-mobile” to conquer them? Today, three representatives of the Yamaha clan put on a demonstration that thrilled all onlookers. The figures do not lie: just take a look at the gaps at the finishing line. Ricardo Porem picked up his first stage win on the Dakar ahead of Ferreira and Ignacio Casale, with the three men separated by only twenty-something seconds. More than six minutes behind them could be found none other than Seth Quintero, who gobbled up almost everything in his way last year, and Austin Jones, the new general rankings leader. This is no mean feat and says a lot about Yamaha's intentions in rally-raid. The Japanese factory may have finished with the bike category, but in the T3 class, there is still very much a story to be written.

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Manuel Andújar exited the Dakar in 2022 without having been able to defend his crown claimed the previous year in the quad race for his fourth participation on the Dakar. The Argentinean was forced out of the rally on stage 6 due to a crash that destroyed his quad. This year, he intended to regain the upper hand over Alexandre Giroud, who took advantage last year to take his title from him. However, his hopes were soon in a bad way on stage 3 when he conceded one hour to the Frenchman. By yesterday, the countryman of Lionel Messi had returned to third place in the general rankings but will not be repeating the score in football’s world cup final against Giroud, the namesake of the French squad’s goal scorer. This is the second premature exit in a row for the Argentinean in 6 consecutive participations. However, Giroud has still not yet defended his title. Francisco Moreno Flores is 2nd in the general rankings, admittedly more than an hour behind, but no doubt will be keen to make up for the misfortunes of Andújar, his countryman!

A breath of fresh air has been blowing over the Dakar in recent years with the arrival of many rookies, each as talented as the next. Whether Seth Quintero or Mason Klein, to name but two, all have made their mark. For this 45th edition of the greatest of rally-raids, there are even more of them: Eryk Goczał, Lucas Moraes, Michael Docherty and Mitchel Van Den Brink are just a few of them. Two of them especially attracted onlookers’ attention today. Eryk Goczał is none other than the son of Marek and nephew of Michał, who together accumulated eight stage victories last year. His father passed down his passion for racing when Eryk was a mere whippersnapper. For his first participation, the newcomer in the Goczał clan only took two days to become the youngest stage winner on the Dakar. The young Polish driver has avoided any mistakes so far and on the evening of stage 11, he sits in second place in the general rankings, behind current T4 world champion Rokas Baciuška. In the car category, Moraes is not faint-hearted either. Following a third place on the Baja Aragon last year behind Nasser Al Attiyah and Yazeed Al Rajhi, he is taking part in his first Dakar with the sole objective of finishing in the top 10 of a special… The Brazilian, assisted by Timo Gottschalk, a former co-pilot of Al Attiyah among others, is doing much better because he has only missed out on the top 10 twice. On the podium for the first time on completion of stage ten, he also occupies second place in the general rankings. Admittedly, he lies more than 1 hour and 20 minutes behind Al Attiyah, but, with a high degree of consistency, he finds himself ahead of Sébastien Loeb, who has won five specials this year. Will Goczał and Moraes hold out until the end of the rally? Find out on Sunday!

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By winning four specials in a row, Sébastien Loeb has demonstrated, as if it was necessary, that the nine times winner of the WRC has the talent and especially the desire to conquer his tenth world title in 2023. Barring a stroke of bad luck, Nasser Al Attiyah should continue to cautiously hurtle down the slide-like dunes of the Empty Quarter until the finish to secure his 5th triumph on the Dakar. Loeb is adopting a different strategy, involving attacking every day to seek the 5 points on offer from the W2RC to the stage winner. In virtual terms, if the two rivals remain in their current positions of 1st (50 points) and 2nd (40 points) in the classification for the first leg, when counting their points to help themselves get to sleep at the marathon bivouac, Sébastien Loeb will only have 3 less than his rival thanks to his performances on the specials. With 3 stages left to race, the Bahrain Raid Xtreme driver can let himself dream tonight. He could even take the stars out of the sky and leave the Dakar with more points in the championship than the winner of this leg, which would indeed be a first.

Frédéric and Magali Barlerin had several objectives when signing up this year for their first Dakar Classic. For the biker who tried his luck without success in 2019 before completing the rally in 2021, in the unassisted biker category if you please, but with the support of his wife each day, the aim was to enjoy the race as a couple. For their Strakit buggy which took part only once in the Paris-Dakar in 1982 without finishing, the aim was to rid this monkey from its back 40 years later. On the 4th edition of the Paris-Dakar, this buggy with its Peugeot engine did not get past the rest day in Gao. Like this year, the rally included 14 stages and the end of the first week concluded after 8 of them. Yesterday, at the marathon bivouac in Haradh reserved for participants in the Dakar Classic, the Barlerins had managed to take the oldest of the historical vehicles in the 2023 caravan beyond the rest day, which was an initial relief, but the couple are not counting their chickens before they’ve hatched just yet…


Source: ASO / Dakar Rally

Photo: A.S.O./C.Lopez , A.S.O./F.Gooden/DPPI

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