- Penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally: Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk still third overall with seventh place on the day
136 stage kilometers, just over three per cent of the total distance remaining to the finish on Sunday
Last tricky dune stage of the 2023 "Dakar" leads from Shaybah to Hofuf
Hofuf, Saudi Arabia (January 14, 2023) - Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk are on the verge of achieving the Dakar Rally sensation: One stage and 136 test kilometers before the finish of the relentless tour through Saudi Arabia, they rank third overall. On the 13th stage of the desert classic from Shaybah to Hofuf, a seventh place on the day was enough for them to be ranked among the top three for the eighth day and almost 2,000 test kilometers in a row. The Brazilian-Brandenburg duo also achieved a place among the day's top ten for the tenth time in 13 stages - before the "Dakar" they had set achieving a single such placing as their ultimate goal. On average, they finished the 13 stages in eighth position. All this resembles a small "Dakar" sensation and is the first big surprise of the young motorsport year.
The stage win went for the sixth time in a row, for the seventh time overall, to nine-time World Rally Champion and experienced "Dakar" driver Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Fabian Lurquin (FRA/BEL, Prodrive) - the duo with whom Moraes Gottschalk had been fighting for second place overall until the previous day. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA, Toyota) continue to lead the overall standings.
A final greeting from the Empty Quarter, the last dune foothills of the world's largest sand desert: With a 153-kilometer special stage, more than four-fifths of it in dunes, the contenders left probably the most difficult task of the Dakar Rally behind them. The route from Shaybah to Hofuf also included short bulkhead passages and sandy tracks - but essentially it was about conquering the never-ending desert once again. On Sunday, however, the remaining 136 kilometers of the stage are expected to be largely solid ground.
Lucas Moraes : "That was another real desert stage. We are happy to have put the Empty Quarter behind us with respectable results and without any major dramas. Now, with the last 136 kilometers on the clock, it's all about the big picture once again: a place on the podium. That's within our grasp now, but only if we continue to keep our cool."
Timo Gottschalk : "The last test out of the Empty Quarter, once again really desert. A kind of never-ending story, dune after dune. It was not so easy, also from the view, because the sun was unfavorable. You could hardly make out the contours of the dunes. It wasn't easy to stay calm and concentrate."
Automatic translation from the original German version
Source: Dakar.direct / Timo Gottschalk
Photo: Vitor Eleuterio / Fotop