Written by Willem Avenant | Pictures by Rally Zone, Supplied by KTM Manufacturing facility Racing
After a grueling first half of the Dakar rally and a relaxation day in Riyadh, the second a part of the race headed into the well-known Rub’ al Khali, dubbed the “Empty Quarter.” A area masking 650,000 sq. kilometers, the Empty Quarter is crammed with awe-inspiring dunes and an unlimited sea of sand.
Main into the final six phases, riders had been feeling considerably energized and had been trying ahead to sunnier, drier situations after the rains that plagued the primary a part of the race. With solely 3 minutes separating the highest six riders after the remainder day, the second a part of Dakar 2023 was going to be all the way down to the wire, delivering the form of competitors organizers meant with the rule modifications just like the time bonus system they carried out this yr.
Click Here to read the report on first 8 stages.
• Stage 9
The post-rest day stage coated 686 km from Riyadh to Haradh. Because the riders traveled to the Empty Quarter and with the second half of the race looming, catastrophe struck for Joan Barreda after leaping a 30m damaged dune. He suffered a fractured vertebra however fortuitously didn’t harm his spinal wire.
It was additionally a nasty day for American phenom Mason Klein, who crashed twice—each instances shedding consciousness. The primary crash prompted him to lose his roadbook and the second concerned a collision with Adrien van Beveren, injuring Klein’s wrist.
Luciano Benavides was quickest on the day, securing a stage win—the primary time anyone has gained two phases on this Dakar on a motorbike.
The rostrum was rounded off by Toby Worth in second, seemingly beginning to place himself for a bid on the Dakar throne, and Skyler Howes positioned third.
• Stage 10
The following stage was 624km, with a brief particular from Haradah to Shabah. The particular was designed to be shorter, as riders entered the Empty Quarter correct, with its intensive dune areas. It was additionally the shortest stage of this yr’s Dakar, however nonetheless a really early begin with the primary bikes leaving the bivouac at 2:30 am.
It was one other phenomenal day for Ross Department. The “Kalahari Ferrari” was at dwelling within the sand, taking the highest spot for the stage and securing a second stage win for Hero Bikes. Behind him had been Adrien van Beveren and Michael Docherty—Docherty being the primary Rally 2 rider on a podium this yr.
Nevertheless it was one other unhappy day the American Rally Originals staff, as Paul Neff crashed out of the race when he encountered a hidden dune. He reportedly suffered dislocated wrists, many damaged ribs, and small non-displaced fractures within the decrease backbone.
The hopes of the ARO quintet to place the primary American on the rostrum within the Malle Moto class then rested on two riders, Mo Hart and Jim Pearson. Pearson suffered an engine failure on the stage however was nonetheless within the race.
• Stage 11
This was the beginning of the dreaded “marathon” stage the place riders should not allowed any exterior assist, must work on their bikes themselves and might solely use what they carry with them on the bikes. The bivouac for the evening was additionally at a unique location than that of the upkeep crews. After a brief interval the place riders had been allowed to work on their bikes, the bikes had been taken to a closed space the place they needed to keep untouched for the evening.
The 427 km from Haradh to the Empty Quarter marathon bivouac in Ardah was primarily dunes and large “chotts,” or dried lake beds, the place riders might actually twist the throttle and go flat out (preserving in thoughts the highest pace is restricted to 160km/h).
Luciano Benavides did simply that, managing his third stage win, the primary particular person to have three stage wins on this Dakar, adopted by Sanders and Worth. Total, nevertheless, Howes moved into the highest spot, with a slim 28-second margin on Kevin Benavides who dethroned Howes because the race chief on stage 10.
• Stage 12
The top of the marathon stage introduced the riders again to their service crews, 376km from the bivouac to Shaybah over huge dunes and huge chotts.
Nacho Cornejo claimed the stage victory, sharing the rostrum with the 2 Aussies, Sanders and Worth.
Worth moved into the general lead of the race, proving that his plan was working and clearly displaying his expertise on this race.
One other catastrophe hit the ARO staff in Stage 12, with Jim Pearson struggling his second engine failure within the race, ending his Dakar dream. After Pearson dropped out, the ARO staff’s hopes had been now pinned on one final rider, Mo Hart.
At this level, the hole between the highest three riders was lower than three minutes, with solely 28 seconds separating Worth and Howes for the highest spot.
• Stage 13
The penultimate stage was one other quick sand particular with a lot of comfortable dunes, but it surely had one other huge liaison that spanned 675km from Shaybah to Al-Hofuf. It was additionally a day that marked the return of the rains that plagued the primary half of the rally.
Michael Docherty was all however set for his second Dakar stage win, however he was unseated by Kevin Benavides who obtained time again for stopping to assist crashed KTM teammate Matthias Walkner who was later pressured to drop out of the race. It was clear that Walkner’s crash had an emotional impact on lots of the riders, affecting their driving. Luciano Benavides took third place on the stage.
By far probably the most suspenseful and contested Dakar in current reminiscence, Stage 13 stage didn’t carry any readability on who would win the hardest race on this planet.
Within the total rankings Worth and Kevin Benavides had been separated by 12 seconds (this quantities to roughly a 300m lead), Howes trailed by over a minute. Sadly, Mason Klein needed to withdraw from the race attributable to his Stage 9 accidents—a crushing blow, and little doubt a really troublesome resolution for this gifted American rider.
Of the 11 Individuals on bikes who began this race solely 4 had been left: Skyler Howes, Jacob Argubright, Petr Vlcek and Mo Hart.
• Stage 14
Previously, the ultimate stage was typically thought of a perfunctory one, with a brief distance and the leaderboard mainly already set. However this yr it was designed to be more difficult, with riders beginning in reverse order in teams of 5. And with such a small hole between the highest riders after 14 days of racing, all of it got here all the way down to the ultimate 417km from Al-Hofuf to Damman. The rain from the day prior to this introduced slippery situations and created mud pits, inflicting some riders to get caught. The race was flat out till the top. However Kevin Benavides shined as he made up time on Worth and nabbed the Dakar win.
After a grueling 14 days of racing, solely 43 seconds separated the winner of Dakar 2023, Kevin Benavides, from his KTM teammate, Toby Worth. Skyler Howes fought exhausting on this race, and it was a flat out race all the best way to the top, with the American taking the third spot on the rostrum.
Jacob Argubright completed twenty second total and third within the Rookie class, an distinctive efficiency for his first Dakar.
Whereas no American has ever completed the Dakar within the Malle Moto class, Mo Hart from the ARO staff shared this honor with Petr Vlcek, who completed the 2023 Dakar in eighty fifth and 59th place respectively, making Dakar historical past.
In all, 135 bike rivals, together with 11 Individuals, began the race. Dakar is the hardest, longest race on the planet, and 2023 was probably the most grueling version lately. After 14 days of racing and masking a complete of 8,500km, 89 bikes crossed the end line, together with 4 Individuals.