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Rally-Raid Network - DAKAR-NEWS

Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Santolino 8th of the marathon stage

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STAGE 11: Shaybah – Empty Quarter / Marathon Stage

This was the first day of the marathon stage of this 2023 Dakar. This stage was undoubtedly the most anticipated and feared for all the competitors. The 274 kilometer special crossed an ocean of dunes, exceptional terrain like yesterday.
Our Sherco Factory Rally rider Lorenzo Santolino once again showed his qualities in difficult conditions by achieving the 8th best performance of the day. He is 11th in the provisional classification for the event.
“I had a good position at the start of the special with Howes and Price behind me. Howes caught me at kilometer 60 and I rode with him for about 20 kilometers. At the 150 km pitstop Price was about 40 seconds behind, he caught up with me at km 210 on a very fast section of alternating dune switchbacks with soft sand and holes. I enjoyed riding with the race leader. On arrival, we only had 30 minutes to check the bike”

Ranking for the day:
Lorenzo Santolino: P8, +5mn 43s

Cumulative ranking:
Lorenzo Santolino: P11, +59mn

Source Sherco Factory Racing Team

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Rainbow loses headlight in tough dunes

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The eleventh stage of the Dakar Rally 2023 was a serious, difficult, but also very beautiful one. Gerrit Zuurmond steered his MAN to the finish with the sixteenth time, but did not reach it without color cracks. He lost a headlight and part of the bumper in a collision with a dune.
At the marathon bivouac in the Empty Quarter, Gerrit Zuurmond, Tjeerd van Ballegooij and Klaas Kwakkel took care of the damage. Some plastic was missing from the MAN and the headlight. The inhospitable desert took some toll on the Rainbow Truck Team.
"It was a particularly tough day," Zuurmond told us. "With very large dunes, with left and right of those big coves in them. You really had to pay very close attention, but we did reasonably well."
The MAN came to a halt a few times. Once the truck was stuck in the sand, once they got a flat tire in the dunes and once they collided with a dune. "We came down a dune steeply and bumped into another one at the bottom," Zuurmond explained. "That one didn't give way, so that's where we lost some plastic, lost the headlight and broke the bumper."
Zuurmond and his were still out of the test just before it got dark, though, and Zuurmond was very happy about that. "I shouldn't think about being in these dunes in the dark. Brrr. I know one thing for sure: after this Dakar I will never worry about dunes again. If you can ride here, you can ride anywhere."
That will also be the motto for the twelfth stage. After all, the second part of the marathon, back to Shaybah, also has lots of dunes again. It is 375 kilometers in total, of which 185 kilometers count for the race.

 

Automatic translation from the original Dutch version

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Five stage wins for BRX & Loeb on Dakar 2023

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Surfing the huge dunes of Saudi Arabia, Sébastien Loeb/Fabian Lurquin have taken their fifth stage victory on this year’s Dakar with their Bahrain Raid Xtreme Prodrive Hunter to make it six stage wins from eleven so far. The endless sand of the Empty Quarter has proven good so far for Loeb as he continues his fight back up the order from 54th overall to now within less than ten minutes of second place.

For the flying Frenchman, it is the first time since 2009 that a driver has taken four Dakar stage victories on the bounce but with three stages to go in this the longest Dakar for over a decade, anything can still happen. Indeed, tomorrow’s test starts tonight as all the rally cars are 430 kms away from the technicians and engineers meaning any service on the cars will be done by the drivers and co-drivers and only with spare parts carried on the car or in the T5 BRX truck that is also competing in the rally.

Guerlain Chicherit/Alex Winocq speared their car through the stage to be right on the tail of Loeb in second place, only 2m 16secs back over the 275 kilometre test, testament once more to the speed and capability of the Hunter on rally raids having only entered it’s first rally 24 months ago.

Making their debut in the Hunter, Vaidotas Zala/Paulo Fiuza also confirmed their speed running fifth overall for 187km before suffering a transmission problem and losing a lot of time having to wait for the BRX support truck.

Tomorrow the crews will complete a further 375 kilometres, 185 of which is on the stage and loops back to Shaybah very close to the UAE border, the reward being back with the BRX support team and a little closer to the finish on Sunday in Dammam.

Gus Beteli, Team Principal: “Seb drove brilliantly today to give us here at Bahrain Raid Xtreme another stage victory to now make six from eleven stages so far, proof of the hard work that everyone here on the rally and those back at Prodrive International have done since the start of this project. We’re now within striking distance of second overall too. With Guerlain making second place it was another good day for BRX although frustrating for Vaidotas after a strong start to the stage. However there are sure to be some further twists and turns over the remaining three days before Sunday.”

 

Stage 11. Shaybah to Empty Quarter. 275kms.
1st. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – Prodrive Hunter
2nd. G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – Prodrive Hunter

 

Source Prodrive / Bahrain Raid Xtreme

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Tim and Tom need some effort to go through ‘real Dakar Day’

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It was already predicted that the eleventh and twelfth stages of the 2023 Dakar Rally would be tough. Together they form the marathon stage in the inhospitable Empty Quarter. In the bivouac at the finish, where they recorded the 25th fastest time, Tim and Tom Coronel had to catch their breath. “What a dunes. Holy moly.”

Tom Coronel was very impressed by the terrain in the 275 long stage. “There were such big dunes that we couldn’t get them in one go. When we were almost at the top, the engine started to stutter a bit. Once we even had to turn around. It really didn’t go smoothly today. We had to work hard for it.”

They weren’t just big dunes, but nasty ones as well, Tom thought. “Once you come over the comb, you looked into a deep hole, like a funnel. One shouldn’t end up in that, because then you’d have a problem. If you fall into that, you’re done,” adds Tim. “It’s not easy to get out of there. We saw Janus van Kasteren’s truck in it, with its nose in a dune. Mitchel van den Brink was there with a tow rope, but they must have been busy for a while.”

Even in the last part of the stage, Tim and Tom saw many cars stuck. “It was a tough day today”, says Tim. “A real Dakar day, and really cool stage as well, but I do hope tomorrow is a little less intense.”

The hitch in the engine did worry Tim a bit. “We have to see if we can solve that, because then it is perfect.” Only: there are no mechanics in the marathon bivouac and Tim and Tom have to solve it themselves, eventually with the help of other participants.

Source Coronel Dakar Team

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Dakar 2023: Stage 11 - Marathon stage into the "Empty Quarter"

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  • Kuba Przygonski finishes eleventh
  • Tomorrow the crews return to Shaybah

The first part of the marathon stage into the desert camp was a tough one. A mixture of dunes, sand and some dried-up lakes awaited the crews. After 274 kilometres, Jakub "Kuba" Przygonski and Armand Monleon finished eleventh in the MINI JCW Rally Plus. Sebastian Halpern and Bernardo "Ronnie" Graue ended the day in 16th position in the MINI JCW Rally Plus, while Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi and Ola Floene finished in 19th position in the MINI JCW Buggy. Denis Krotov and Konstantin Zhiltsov had to settle for 34th place.
 
Kuba Przygonski: "The stage today consisted of dunes and fast, dry lakes. We were doing well. Behind a dune there was a hole and the tyre slipped off the rim. We had to stop and change the wheel. Other than that, the MINI is fine and we don't have much work."
 
The twelfth stage sees the crews return to their teams in Shaybah. The 185-kilometre stage again leads through the dunes of the "Empty Quarter".    
  
Dakar Rally - result SS11
1. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – BRX – 2h 56m 14s
2. G. Chicherit / A. Winocq – BRX – 2h 58m 30s
3. M. Ekström / E. Bergkvist – Audi – 2h 58m 40s
4. L. Moraes / T. Gottschalk – Toyota – 3h 02m 26s
5. N. Al-Attiyah / M. Baumel – Toyota – 3h 02m 56s

11. J. Przygonski / A. Monleon – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 3h 07m 42s

16. S. Halpern / B. Graue – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 3h 14m 54s

19. Sh. K. Al-Qassimi / O. Floene – MINI JCW Buggy – 3h 19m 13s

34. D. Krotov / K. Zhiltsov – MINI JCW Buggy – 4h 00m 09s
 
Overall standings after SS11
1. N. Al-Attiyah / M. Baumel – Toyota – 39h 16m 33s
2. L. Moraes / T. Gottschalk – Toyota – 40h 37m 37s
3. S. Loeb / F. Lurquin – BRX – 40h 47m 14s
4. H. Lategan / B. Cummings – Toyota – 41h 05m 50s
5. G. de Villiers / D. Murphy – Toyota – 41h 30m 51s

12. S. Halpern / B. Graue – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 43h 39m 05s

16. Sh. K. Al-Qassimi / O. Floene – MINI JCW Buggy – 45h 34m 16s

21. J. Przygonski / A. Monleon – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 46h 37m 22s
22. D. Krotov / K. Zhiltsov – MINI JCW Buggy – 46h 43m 59s

 

Source X-Raid

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Dakar 2023: Video - Stage 10 highlights

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Dune Wizards

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Dakar 2023 | Stage 10 | HARADH > SHAYBAH

FOCUS
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.

OUTLINE
Mastering the dunes of the Dakar is a bit like walking a tightrope. It requires exceptional agility and skills honed during years of driving or riding on slippery terrain. The best dune-surfers are the most experienced, as Ross Branch showed by winning the stage to Shaybah. The Botswanan trains year-round in the Kalahari Desert, which he also flies over regularly as an airliner pilot. You could say Hero MotoSports' fresh recruit knows how to reach new heights. He has not been as consistent as he would have liked, but today he won his second special of the year, while another dune wizard, Adrien Van Beveren, set the second time at 21″ and defended his fourth place overall. The man from northern France polished his handling skills on the beaches of Le Touquet, while Michael Docherty (see Performance of the day), one of the sensations of this Dakar, has become quite proficient at turning the lessons learned on his base camp in the Emirates into strong performances, with third place today. It was also a good day for the aces of the Dakar, as two former winners on the prowl for another victory, Kevin Benavides and Toby Price, now surround Skyler Howes on the provisional podium, which is still undecided with the Australian 2′10″ behind his Argentinian frenemy. The driver of Hunter no. 201, Sébastien Loeb, also showed off his driving prowess and gained close to six minutes on the king of the desert (see Figure of the day). Nasser Al Attiyah remains undaunted, however. If anyone sees any drops of sweat on his face when he gets out of his Hilux, it is only because of the long-awaited rise in temperatures. Finishing fourth on the first day in the Empty Quarter suits the Qatari, not least because it means he will benefit from a favourable starting position in the marathon stage, sandwiched between two teammates, the Brazilian Lucas Moraes and the Saudi Yazeed Al Rajhi. In T3, Guillaume de Mevius still leads the way ahead of Austin Jones, but today's stage allowed Seth Quintero to add another notch to his belt with his twentieth career win, which puts him level with Loeb. Further back, Ignacio Casale (second) and Hélder Rodrigues (third) are shining brighter than ever in this category. Gerard Farrés, a regular fixture near the top of the SSV classification, was still in the hunt for his first triumph of the year. The Catalan can now tick that box as he moves onto the provisional podium and prepares to try and snatch the win from under Rokas Baciuška and Eryk Goczał's young noses. The truck race has been turned on its head by the withdrawal of the leader, Aleš Loprais, following an accident that claimed the life of an Italian spectator yesterday. Janus van Kasteren is the new leader, while a former biker, Pascal de Baar, drove a Renault to the top spot of a Dakar truck stage for the first time since records started in 1999.

loeb 11 1 w 1

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY
Michael Docherty put his name on the map in 2022, when he won the first two stages of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge against the cream of the W2RC crop before crashing out of the race the next day. After spending the rest of the season on the sidelines, the South African is making his Dakar debut with HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing, the satellite team of the constructor from Mattighofen. The former motocross rider, who cut his teeth on the European and American circuits before claiming three titles in the Emirates, where he is now based, took his third Rally2 stage today. Even more importantly, he became the first Rally2 driver to climb onto the podium of a special in this Dakar, 30 seconds behind Branch and 9 down on Van Beveren. The Saffa is fourth in the Rally2 classification and nineteenth overall after a mixed bag of performances. The next few days will offer him a new chance to make the headlines as the race ventures into his backyard, but it is his teammate Romain Dumontier, the runner-up to Mason Klein in the Rally2 category of the W2RC, who is perched atop the leader board. The Frenchman set the eleventh fastest time today and finished ahead of Sanders. His pace is great, but so is his consistency —the sort of reliability that could make Docherty one of the most promising riders in the field.

A CRUSHING BLOW
As a grizzled veteran, Vaidotas Žala knows that the Dakar is never merciful for long. After a few ups and downs in the first few stages, everything had finally fallen into place for the former Mini driver, now behind the wheel of a Hunter. Žala and his right-hand man, Paulo Fiuza, had cracked the top 10 every day since stage 5. The duo even scored two near misses, including stage 9 yesterday, when they finished within a minute of Sébastien Loeb. The Lithuanian even played a part in Prodrive's first ever 1-2-3. Everything seemed to be going well, but disaster struck today at km 44 in the shape of a mechanical that cost him over 4 hours. Even a well-oiled machine is but a toy in the hands of the Dakar…

FIGURE OF THE DAY: 20
Back in 2016, when Sébastien Loeb first entered the Dakar behind the wheel of a Peugeot, which was making its big comeback to the event, he won four stages, mainly on the Argentinian tracks that suited his background as a rally driver. The Frenchman has since changed his vehicle, his co-driver and perhaps a little bit of his race vision and management… Enough to finish second in the Dakar twice while racking up stage wins. Even more importantly, he has now proved able to triumph on all sorts of terrains, whatever the navigation challenges, whatever the specificities. It is therefore symbolic to see the BRX driver take his 20th stage on the first day in the Empty Quarter, with over 100 kilometres of dunes on the menu and leading from the front. The apprentice has become the master.

W2RC: TURNING BACK THE HOURGLASS
Al Attiyah and Loeb both know that the points tally at the end of the first leg will take place in four days. Of course, the Frenchman still hopes to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat but, on a more realistic level, he continues to push hard, as he did today by winning his fourth stage, one more than his arch-rival. It is a way of hedging for the future for the current season. Second in the virtual W2RC standings, Loeb knows that, were the race to end without changes, Al Attiyah would pocket an extra 10 points (50 for the winner versus 40 for the runner-up). The Frenchman is tirelessly chasing stage wins in a bid to close this gap. And, if he can keep it up, he could even do better than that!

THE MAKINGS OF A CLASSIC
As is to be expected in a sea of sand, after the end of the stage the Dakar Classic made its own way towards a bivouac near Haradh, where the caravan is about to settle down for the night in a camp without service crews. The competitors will adapt the rhythm of their evening to that of the desert in nomadic tents. As the Dakar gets ready to plunge into the Empty Quarter in its fourth edition in Saudi Arabia, memories of the fourth Paris–Dakar herald this great leap into the unknown. In Niger, the ninth stage of the 1983 Paris–Dakar made the rally's first foray into the dunes in the "desert of deserts". A sandstorm in the Ténéré scattered the caravan, in some cases for longer than 72 hours. It was an epic stage, one of those that planted a seed in the minds of those who watched it on the edge of their seats back then… and went on to enter the Dakar Classic this year.

 dakar 11 1 w

Source A.S.O. / Dakar Rally
Photos: A.S.O./C.Lopez , A.S.O./E.Vargiolu/DPPI

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Zuurmond keeps his head up

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If Gerrit Zuurmond has learned anything from riding in the dunes, it is to keep your head in the game. "Your attention must not slacken for a second," he knows. "It's very intense steering and it listens very closely." With that knowledge and tactic, Zuurmond, his navigator Tjeerd van Ballegooij and mechanic Klaas Kwakkel also achieved a neat twelfth place in stage 10 of the Dakar 2023.

The stage to Shaybah was short at 114 kilometers, but difficult and intense because it was 114 kilometers of continuous dunes. It was also preceded by 500 kilometers of connection and the trucks started around noon, so with the sun at its highest. That doesn't make driving in the dunes any easier. "It was difficult, but a very nice stage," Zuurmond thought. "Because we had also finished 12th yesterday, we were close. We rode in a group and it went surprisingly well. We were able to keep a nice pace in it."

Being able to keep the pace high did require a lot from Zuurmond and his crew. "It is very intensive steering in the dunes and it listens very closely. Attention must not slacken for a second."

A little further forward in the field, Zuurmond saw less misery. "Only a few baby carriages that couldn't get out of a dune pan. I like it, a bit further up front. The pace then automatically goes up a bit as well."

The MAN was also able to keep up well. The mechanics don't have much work on it tonight, except for the usual stuff. Tomorrow night the Rainbow team will even have a night off, when the race crew is staying at the marathon bivouac. Many special things Zuurmond is not taking with him. "Some extra keys, just in case. And other than that just a sleeping bag and some small things."

 

Automatic translation from the original Dutch version
Source Rainbow Truck Team

 

 

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Finally Pascal de Baar wins another stage

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In 2016, Pascal de Baar won the queen stage of that Dakar Rally. Seven years he had to wait for another stage victory. He was already close a few times in the 2023 Dakar Rally, but in the tenth stage it was finally there. At the finish of the 114 kilometers through the dunes, De Baar was 22 seconds faster than Mitchel van den Brink.

The joy was great for Pascal de Baar, Stefan Slootjes and Marcin Krüger. "We had already been close; yesterday we were second. But then you also see that it is sport," said De Baar. "You can't buy anything. It all has to be right: the car, the team, the crew. And you have to have a little bit of luck. Today we had the right draw."

De Baar began the race test well rested, which was first preceded by a 500-kilometer drive. "I slept well last night - Marcin a little less - and I also took a nap before the test. I was ready. I saw some people being very nervous, but I didn't have that at all. Let it come, this is my field."

The Riwald Renault was the second truck at the start, behind Janus van Kasteren's Iveco. Within 10 minutes, De Baar was already with Van Kasteren. "But I suspect that was the intention. Van Kasteren knew since this morning that he became overall leader due to the loss of Ales Loprais, so I imagine he was fine with following." At the end of the stage, De Baar made a mistake, which allowed Van Kasteren to pull away. "But in 10 kilometers we made up 2 minutes, so also on speed we could do it. That it was then only 22 seconds difference with Mitchel van den Brink? That one was definitely fast, but he had to stay behind his father Martin, he said."

As for De Baar, he is also competing for the prizes in the next two days, which together form a marathon stage. "The maintenance we are doing now is preventive," he said at the bivouac in Shaybah. "The truck is doing fine. I'm not afraid of that. The dunes is my territory. I'm not saying I'm going to win for a while, but contender we definitely are and we're definitely going to do our best."

 

Automatic translation from the original Dutch version
Source Riwald Dakar Team

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Mitchel van den Brink just misses the stage victory

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Equipes Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco move up in ranking

Mitchel van den Brink fell only 22 seconds short for a second stage victory in the Dakar Rally. Pascal de Baar disrupted the party of the young Harskamper.
Martin van den Brink finished fifth in the ninth stage. In the relatively short special over 114 kilometers, Martin had to give in 4m39s to the stage winner.

Nevertheless, the experienced driver from Harskamp enjoyed the special in Saudi Arabia. “It was a nice special with only dunes in all shapes and sizes. High, low and soft dunes,” says the figurehead of Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco.Afterwards, Martin expressed his satisfaction with the Iveco Powerstar. “We didn’t have any problems.

The truck didn’t suffer at all. We will go to the bivouac without any problems and prepare ourselves and the truck for the marathon stage of tomorrow. The next two days we will have a lot of sand and dunes again. We are very much looking forward to that,” said the 52-year-old rally pilot on behalf of navigator Erik Kofman and mechanic Richard Mouw.

Van den Brink senior will start the eleventh stage tomorrow as second. Team mate Janus van Kasteren leads the duo of Team De Rooy. The fast man from Veldhoven will start the two days of marathon in ‘the largest sandpit in Saudi Arabia’ with a lead of 22m41s. Third man, Martin Macik, is already more than 50 minutes behind Van Kasteren.

A tarnished day
As for all rally enthusiasts, the retirement of Ales Loprais was also for Martin a big scar on this beautiful day. The classification leader left today’s rally after being involved in a fatal accident on Tuesday. “It is very unfortunate what happened. Meanwhile, the race continues. I think we still have every chance. Tomorrow the decisive phase starts with the marathon. Then we’ll know more.”

Loyal servant
After 114 kilometers of racing through the dunes in the Empty Quarter, Mitchell van den Brink, Moi Torrallardona and Jarno van de Pol had to accept that they fell 22 seconds short of a second day’s victory. The 20-year-old Harskamper closed a five-minute gap to his father and left it at that as a loyal servant. “It was a super nice special through the dunes. We’ve seen a lot of people get stuck. Also our competitor Jaroslav Valtr. We stayed a few minutes behind him before passing him again. We are fourth and on to tomorrow,” said Mitchel before parking the Iveco Powerstar of Eurol Team De Rooy in the bivouac in Shaybah.

Marathon
The first part of the marathon starts after a liaison of 153 kilometers with a special stage over 274 kilometers. The pilots will only see sand in all colors and sizes. In addition, the role of the navigator is very important. At the end of the first day, there will be no help from the trusted service crew. The pilots must prepare the truck themselves for the final part on Friday. That stage brings the caravan, via a special over 185 kilometers, back to the bivouac of Shabah. There the trucks will be handed over to the trusted mechanics

 

Source Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Van Kasteren does not take any risks in the dreaded 10th stage

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Stage 10: by insiders potentially considered as the toughest special in this Dakar rally.

The start was overshadowed by the withdrawal of the classification leader Ales Loprais. An unfortunate accident with a spectator, who died later, made the experienced Czech decide to withdraw from the competition. The “Praga” team is deeply affected by this sad event. The organization of the Dakar rally and the FIA ​​are investigating the accident. The harsh reality is that the rally will continue but without the Czech truck leader.
Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco started as the new leader in the race but not as they would have liked.
The stage started with a solid liaison of 467 kilometers. This was followed by a special stage of only 114 kilometers. Short, but completely through dunes. Not the distance, but the terrain was feared. Janus van Kasteren jr., Marcel Snijders and Darek Rodewald were the first rally truck to start after yesterday's victory.
They started at 13:00 hrs. local time and via three waypoints the men in the mighty Iveco Powerstar of Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco drove to the finish without any problems. Not as fast this time, but in third position at 1 minute and 12 seconds from winner Pascal de Baar. Mitchel van den Brink finished in second position between De Baar and Van Kasteren.
The pilot of Team De Rooy just was short of 22 seconds for a second victory. In the general classification, Van Kasteren is now the leader with 22 minutes and 41 seconds ahead of Martin van den Brink, who also drives for Team De Rooy. Martin Macik is third with 51 minutes and 7 seconds behind Janus van Kasteren jr.
Due to limited internet coverage, there has been little contact with the team, but Janus was able to say that he looks back on a good day and has not taken any risks. After yesterday's battlefield, this dreaded stage wasn't so bad in the end and didn’t cause any problems.
The top twenty all finished within one hour of winner De Baar. In that respect, it was better than expected. So, we move on to tomorrow, when a new marathon stage starts with Janus van Kasteren provisionally leading the Dakar 2023.

 

Source: Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco

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Dakar 2023: Stage 10 - Joan Font recovers the good tone on a sea of dunes

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  •  The rider from Vic and Themis Lopez completed a short special stage entirely in the desert with a good pace, in 28th position in the T3 category.
  • The FN Speed Team pair remains in the Top 20 overall among the light prototypes.
  • "The car worked perfectly and so did we. With Themis we went very well, with good navigation."

A sea of dunes was the backdrop for the tenth stage of the Dakar, between Haradh and Shaybah. Joan Font turned the page on the previous day's muddy fording and finished the 114-kilometer special stage in 28th place in the T3 category (light prototypes), just 34 minutes behind the leader. In the overall standings, the Catalan driver and his Aragonese co-driver Themis Lopez remain in the Top 20, with the FN Speed Team's Can-Am Maverick.

The special stage was the shortest of this Dakar, with just over a hundred kilometers that the driver from Vic took two and a half hours to complete. But the day was once again exhausting for the riders, because before starting the timed stage they had to ride a very long 467-kilometer liaison, which forced them to get up even earlier than in a "normal" stage, and another 42 kilometers later, to reach the bivouac. In addition, the special stage, although short, was pure desert, as the Dakar entered the vast Empty Quarter on Wednesday, where it will remain until next Saturday. "Today was a relatively short stage, with little mileage, but we are already entering the Empty Quarter, in the heart of the desert," explained the driver from Vic.

The description of the terrain was clear: a dirt track at the start of the special stage led the riders to the Rub al-Jali desert, better known as the Empty Quarter. It is the largest desert of sand and dunes in the world, and this was the menu: off-road on sand, with alternating undulating plains and strings of dunes. This is how the former Spanish dirt rally champion assessed it: "Today's stage was 100% sand, very intense, with level 2 and level 3 dunes of great difficulty to pass. It was a slow and very tricky stage".

The navigation was very important, and also the riding, because the sand was dry, but quite soft in general. In addition, the Can-Am number 318 with the colors of Doga, Racing Oil and FN Speed started very far back in the starting order, due to the time lost in the mud on Tuesday, and found the terrain very hard because of the ruts of the trucks that preceded it. Despite this, Font and Lopez rode at a good pace on a terrain where the side-by-side vehicles (categories T3 and T4) perform very well and recovered ten positions in the classification of the stage in their category, compared to the partial position they occupied on Tuesday. "The car worked perfectly and so did we. With Themis we went very well, with good navigation", said Font, satisfied with the day.

This Thursday, the Dakar will dive even deeper into the Empty Quarter. In addition, the eleventh stage is the first part of the marathon stage in the desert, without assistance at the end of the day. From Shaybah, the caravan will start a 151-kilometer liaison (short by Dakar standards) followed by a 275-kilometer special stage, the longest of the four remaining stages before the finish in Dammam.

 

Automatic translation from the original Spanish version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source FN Speed Team official press release

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