Dakar 2023: Final stage: Desert Miracle, Motorsport fairy tale - Moraes and Gottschalk celebrate podium finish

Dakar 2023: Final stage: Desert Miracle, Motorsport fairy tale - Moraes and Gottschalk celebrate podium finish

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  • Reliability stings: Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk finish surprisingly outstanding "Dakar" third
  • Brazilian-Brandenburg duo the revelation of the 45th edition of the desert classic thanks to zero-fault job
  • Expectations exceeded on all levels: Moraes/Gottschalk master 4,247 brutally demanding "Dakar" kilometers with brains

The kings of consistency have been crowned: Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk caused a fist-pumping sensation by finishing third in the 2023 Dakar Rally. The Brazilian-Brandenburg duo managed the often desired but almost impossible to achieve zero-fault job in the world's toughest motorsport event, which took them across extremely demanding terrain through Saudi Arabia. Rookie Lucas Moraes' podium finish marks the first achieved by a rookie in this millennium's Dakar Rally in the automobile classification. The last time this was achieved was in 1990 by Björn Waldegård, at the time one month after Lucas Moraes was born. Experience means everything - the last five "Dakar" podiums were shared by just seven different drivers, all of whom also competed this year and four of whom reached the finish. For Timo Gottschalk it was his third podium finish in 15 Dakar Rally events since 2009, following second place in 2010 and victory in 2011 - then as co-driver to Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Whether extreme gravel sections and endless scree, fast sand tracks and off-piste, small "dunettes" and gigantic dunes, soft, hard or water-soaked desert sand - Lucas Moraes set the ideal pace as a driver in all situations, sparing the material as much as necessary, but decelerating as little as possible. Timo Gottschalk provided support by "reading" the dunes and with a great deal of experience, always maintaining a navigational overview in the maze of canyons or during compass navigation through open countryside. Remarkable: 33-year-old Lucas Moraes lifts the third largest "Dakar" trophy exactly 44 days after his very first competition in the desert sand.

During the tough tour through Saudi Arabia, from the coast on the Red Sea, detours to the off-road center around Ha'il in the north of the country or into the world's largest sand desert - the Empty Quarter - and all the way to the finish on the Persian Gulf, Moraes/Gottschalk limited their downtimes to a maximum. The duo, which was newly formed for this Dakar Rally, recorded only three punctures, only once did they dig themselves into the desert sand and that only undramatically for a few minutes. In view of the 4,247 kilometers against the clock, 8,877 in total, and bearing in mind the challenges they faced, this is the much-vaunted zero-fault job that many teams dream of but only achieve in exceptional cases. Another factor: Their Toyota Hilux according to T1-plus regulations, used by the experienced Overdrive team from Belgium did not let them down once.

With their unflinching but uncompromisingly consistent driving, Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk surprisingly worked their way up to a podium position in the 2023 Dakar Rally as early as the sixth of 14 competition days. They finished third for the first time at stage kilometer 2,210 of 4,247. From there on they remained on a virtual podium - on nine stages in a row. Three of them even as runners-up. Before the "Dakar" Moraes/Gottschalk had set themselves the ultimate goal of finishing in the top ten of the daily standings at least once. They achieved this feat on 10 of 14 possible occasions. Considering the class of the field - at least 20 teams were considered candidates for the podium - in retrospect this was a realistic goal, but one that was far exceeded.

The fact that Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk exceeded expectations on all levels was also appreciated by their opponents - such as the eventual winners Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA, Toyota), quote: "The future of the Dakar Rally. The Brazilian-Brandenburg duo cleverly capitalized on their starting positions, hanging on to top favorites to learn driving techniques, the rhythm or the possible pace in the desert from their box seat position. Lucas Moraes, who arrived at the Dakar Rally with the aim of learning, saw his learning curve rise steeply accordingly. In the very terrain that was the great unknown for the Paulista - desert sand - he celebrated his best daily results: once third place and once fourth place in the notorious Empty Quarter.

Lucas Moraes: "I think this was a tough 'Dakar' not only for me as a rookie. The freak weather at the beginning, the extremely long days in the first week. Plus the desert stages in the second week, which were really tough. The fact that we made it onto the podium on my debut and kept up with the top riders makes me really proud. The teamwork with Timo was great and he contributed a lot to the success with his experience. His commitment was great. I hope we can repeat that!"

Timo Gottschalk: "I'd have to be pinched for a moment, please: We're on the podium! It's the third time for me, after 2010 and 2011 with Nasser Al-Attiyah - but there we, more or less, lived up to expectations. This third place with Lucas, however, exceeds all expectations and goals - that feels particularly good. I couldn't be more proud of what we've achieved in the past two weeks or so. Lucas has shown an incredible amount of talent and has always done everything right. I've also played a good part in this. I'm very happy to have been given the chance to compete with Lucas."

Automatic translation from the original German version
Source Dakar.direct / Timo Gottschalk
Photo: MEM Motorsport / Red Bull Content Pool
Portuguese press release from MEM Motorsport available on www.todoterreno.pt

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