Are you ready for more than 900 racers, some of the most advanced offroad machines in the world, and a 5,000-mile racing adventure? That’s right it’s time for the Dakar Rally 2023. If you are a regular reader and fan, then you know we are a fan of Rally Raid and the Dakar. We are hyped up about this year’s competition and wish our American heroes on the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team the best of luck. Join Offroad Xtreme as we take a look at what’s in store for this year’s race.
What Is The Dakar Rally?
Back in 1979, French adventurer, Thierry Sabine created the rally. Rumor has it, in Sabine’s planning of Dakar, he scoured the world’s most prestigious off-road races, including the Baja 1000. The first race began in France and ended in Dakar, locking in its place as a premier international race. Over the years, the rally has migrated around the globe spanning three continents.
A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind – Thierry Sabine
If you have never been a fan, watched, or heard of the Dakar Rally, we encourage you to watch this short Dakar for Newbies crash course. If you are a fan but lack the background, this educational video presenting the history is for you.
This year, the race returns to the Saudi Arabian desert. Starting on the beaches of the Red Sea, the course will snake across the country ending in the gulf city of Damman. The 2023 course promises to be one of the toughest in many years.
Dakar Rally Format
The Rally will take place over a total of sixteen days. During those two weeks, teams will see a prologue and a total of fourteen stages of racing. This format is as much about endurance as it is about speed. Finding the balance between the two will be where the winners are decided.
For those unfamiliar, something to note is the rally is divided into two types of areas, specials, and liaisons. Specials are the all-out, timed sections of a stage. With numerous waypoints, navigation is key during the specials. Speed only wins if you finish, and penalties can destroy a stage’s time. Throughout the 5,200 miles traveled, look for the specials to take up over 2,800 miles of the course.
Racing across an entire country at top speed is obviously an unrealistic idea. That’s where liaison sections come into play. These are non-timed sections, usually at the beginning and end of stages providing a safe way to traverse terrain and areas that could not normally be raced through. Despite being nontimed, racers and vehicles still rack up thousands of miles worth of wear and tear over these sections.
Who To Watch For
With around 1,000 racers attending it’s impossible to single out a sure thing. But let’s take a look at a few of the favorites in the car and SXS classes that have some history and the team support to make a strong showing.
Dakar Rally 2023 Top Competitors Autos – Cars
Four-time winners Nasser Al-Attiyah and Carlos Sainz will be battling for victory and have proven to be fierce competitors in the past. Nine-time world rally champion, Sebastien Loeb has yet to get a win in the Dakar Rally but finished second last year is another name to look for on the leaderboard. Another front-runner should be Mattias Ekstrom. He is bringing wins from all over the sport on his resume.
– Looking to make it back-to-back Dakar victories are Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel. The duo and their Toyota GR DKR Hilux enjoyed a stellar 2022, not only winning the Dakar but also claiming the inaugural FIA World Rally-Raid Championship. These titles will not be easy to retain and Al-Attiyah has identified which rival he thinks can cause him the most trouble on the route: “For me the main rival will be Sébastien Loeb, not Audi. Throughout this year Loeb has been very close to us, and in Morocco and Andalusia the BRX [Loeb’s car] won.”
– As for the opinions of Sébastien Loeb himself, well he’s entering the rally with the ambition of winning it – no change there! The nine-time WRC victor has three Dakar podium finishes in his six previous appearances at the rally. During this time the Frenchman has collected an impressive 16 stage wins. But stage wins are all well and good, now Loeb and co-driver Fabian Lurquin want to guide their Prodrive BRX Hunter to an overall T1+ car class victory: “I’ve finished on the podium three times. And I’ve always won stages, but I’ve never won overall. That’s my main objective.”
– Team Audi Sport have entered their fleet of three RS Q e-tron E2 cars into the T1U category, and they also have ambitions of topping the daily and overall timesheets at this Dakar. Audi have handed over the keys to 14-time Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel, motorsport legend Carlos Sainz and multi-series champion Mattias Ekström. Sainz observes: “We’re better prepared than last year and we’ll see just how competitive the car is in the first few days. We’ll also see what our rivals have got under the bonnet.”
– Before picking out the best in class in the bike race it’s vital to highlight a rule change for 2023. A system of time bonuses is now in place to reward the bikers who ‘open the road’ on each stage. The bonus sections are in place during the first 200km of the timed special stage. It will be possible for a rider to have a total of five minutes deducted from their daily time if they lead the way throughout the opening 200km. It’s a huge prize to aim for, but also comes with a massive amount of risk – with no tracks to follow the chances of getting lost is bound to increase.
– Will the new chapter of the rulebook help Red Bull KTM Factory Racing get back to winning ways? The Austrian manufacturer won 18 consecutive editions of the Dakar before the rally relocated to Saudi Arabia. Team riders Toby Price, Matthias Walkner and Kevin Benavides already have four Dakar victories between them and all have a shot at winning in 2023.
– For any of the KTM trio to win this time in Saudi Arabia they will need to beat the pair of riders representing Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing.Sam Sunderland is the Dakar’s defending champion while Daniel Sanders is part of a new generation of bikers tipped for Dakar success in the near future.
– As well as KTM and GASGAS, there are strong factory line-ups from Honda, Husqvarna and Hero also in the mix for top honours at this Dakar. The word inside the Yanbu Sea Camp is that there are more than 15 bikers on the start line of this Dakar with a realistic chance of winning the thing.
Dakar Rally 2023 Top Competitors T3 / T4 – SxS Division
Team Red Bull USA and their partner Can-Am are bringing some big names in race-proven machines this year. Mitch Guthrie JR, Seth Quintero, and Austin Jones all have the potential to bring a trophy back home. The Sister team of Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing is also boasting the Chilean driver Francisco “Chaleco” López who has a ton of experience with the rally. Team X-raid driver Ignacio Casale will be looking to break Can-Am’s winning streak in his Yamaha Factory Supported rig.
– The job of picking a likely winner for the T3 side-by-side category is an even trickier task than assessing the cars or bikes. There’s a total of 47 T3 crews entered into the 2023 Dakar with a parity of skill level and machinery across the board.
– Of course the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich catches our eye with its three-man driver line-up of Seth Quintero, AJ Jones and Mitch Guthrie. There’s enough Dakar success, ambition and talent within this group to shut out the entire podium of the general classification with their Can-Ams and Guthrie’s T3-M by MCE5.
– The North American trio can expect to be pushed all the way by the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team. Here we find reigning T3 champion Chaleco López as well as last year’s third place overall finisher Cristina Gutiérrez. This team also have a strong interest in the T4 race with Rokas Baciuška flying their colors in that contest.
– Also gunning for victory in the T3 race will be Guillaume De Mevius in an OT3, three-time quad race winner Ignacio Casale in an X-Raid prepared Yamaha YXZ 1000 and two-time bike race podium finisher Hélder Rodrigues in a Can-Am Maverick.
It will be a grueling two weeks for all competitors. We wish them health and safety so that they may return to their homelands and loved ones richer in adventure.
The Dakar Rally 2023 Course
5,292 miles, that’s the distance it will take to finish this year’s Dakar rally. Broken out into 14 stages, competitors will traverse some of the most unforgiving desert terrain in the world. With only one day of rest and recovery, this race will prove to be a true test of endurance for both man and machine.
Prologue – 12/31/22 – Specials Distance 6.8 miles
This short loop will set the grid for Stage 1. At just over 6.5 miles expect times to be tight as racers fight for choice starting positions
Stage 1 – 1/1/23 – Specials Distance 228 miles
The loop stage covers 374 miles starting and finishing at the Sea Camp. Drivers will be tested on multiple terrain types at this stage consisting of sand, gravel, and hard rock sections. This stage offers the first view of how the drivers will perform on the dunes as well.
Stage 2 – 1/2/23 – Specials Distance 267 miles
Once again, leaving from the Sea Camp racers will head northeast to Alula for 544 miles. This stage consists of mostly dunes, with breathtaking views of Nabataean temples dotting the horizon. Even with a perfect run in the dunes, watch for the boulder fields. They can easily knock a run off the pace if a competitor gets caught out.
Stage 3 – 1/3/23 – Specials Distance 277 miles
Leaving Alula racers will be in one of the most breathtaking areas of the course. Navigating endless canyons this fast section can shake up the race. After covering 415 miles racers will arrive in Ha’il where the next few days of loop routes will keep them.
Stage 4 – 1/4/23 – Specials Distance 264 miles
A 362-mile loop, this stage will have drivers tackling enormous mountains of sand at the start. After that, it’s all about navigation. Choosing their way back through sandy tracks will be the deciding factor of this stage.
Stage 5 – 1/5/23 – Specials Distance 231 miles
Day six of racing brings another loop stage. 400 miles in length, this stage is sand, sand, and more sand. Jumping the dunes will be the test here as racers can easily lose minutes fighting the soft sand when it goes wrong.
Stage 6 – 1/6/23 – Specials Distance 288 miles
Starting in Ha’il for the final time this stage is the longest of the race at 544 miles. This high-speed stage will see some of the highest top speeds of the rally as competitors rip their way to Al Duwadimi.
Stage 7 – 1/7/23 – Specials Distance 293 miles
Another loop stage will test each driver over some of the most varied terrain of a single stage. Gravel leading back to more dunes will keep everyone on their toes over the 391 miles.
Stage 8 – 1/8/23 – Specials Distance 247 miles
This is the last stage before both drivers and machines get a well-earned day of rest. A completely new route for Dakar, weaving through mountain valleys at the start. The stage will open up to a high-speed open desert run, ending in Riyadh.
Stage 9 – 1/10/23 – Specials Distance 222 miles
Fresh off a day’s rest, teams will be navigating canyons at the start of this 426-mile stretch. In an area that can easily put the rigs off track, navigation will be key to starting back strong. The day will end with another amazing set of dunes leading into Haradh.
Stage 10 1/11/23 – Specials Distance 70 miles
For the first time, the Dakar Rally will be venturing deep into the “Empty Quarter”. Because of the difficulty of this stage and region only about 70 of the 387-mile stage will be timed. But, that 70 miles will be a hard-fought battle in the sand for everyone.
Stage 11 – 1/12/23 – Specials Distance 170 miles
Start of the “Marathon,” there will be no mechanic crews or service vehicles waiting at the end of the 265-mile day. With that drivers must keep their rig in running order despite having traveled over 2,800 at full race speed.
Stage 12 – 1/13/23 – Specials Distance 113 miles
Finishing up the Marathon section and the endless sand of the “empty quarter,” drivers will be heading the 387 miles to Sheybah. Teaming back up with their crews for the first time in days, expect some changes in tactics for those that may be off the pace. Coming out of this stage behind will mean trying to play catch up with only 180 miles of specials to go.
Stage 13 – 1/14/23 – Specials Distance 95 miles
This 420-mile day will be similar to Stage 10 in that it is mostly liaison. But with all that time to think the sub-100-mile sprint will be huge as competitors surf the dunes one last time. Every second will count as mechanical and mental fatigue take their toll.
Stage 14 – 1/15/23 – Specials Distance 84 miles
This super-fast beach section will have the teams tearing North up the Arabian Gulf to Dammam. With the specials for this stage consisting of fast beach sections, drivers will struggle to make up for any lost time to the leaders. Barring mechanical issues or catastrophic mistakes, don’t expect much change to the leaderboards as they bring it home to the finish.
Photography sourced from Red Bull Content Pool.
How Can You Catch All The Action From the Dakar Rally 2023?
The Red Bull TV app is going to be the best place to watch each stage. Starting January 1 at 6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports will present daily coverage of the 2023 Dakar Rally on Peacock and NBC Sports digital platforms. This will include highlights, interviews, and special features. You should also check out www.Dakar.com for updates and scoring. Plus, Offroad Xtreme will be here for you with a race recap and any breaking news that comes through.
Following is the complete same-day coverage schedule of the 2023 Dakar Rally on Peacock and CNBC:
|Sun., January 1||Stage 1 – Sea Camp||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Mon., January 2||Stage 2 – Sea Camp to Alula||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Tues., January 3||Stage 3 – Alula to Ha’il||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Wed., January 4||Stage 4 – Ha’il||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Thurs., January 5||Stage 5 – Ha’il||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Fri., January 6||Stage 6 – Ha’il to Al Duwadimi||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Sat., January 7||Stages 5 & 6||CNBC*||Noon|
|Sat., January 7||Stage 7 – Al Duwadimi||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Sun., January 8||Stages 6 & 7||CNBC*||11 a.m.|
|Sun., January 8||Stage 8 – Al Duwadimi to Riyadh||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Mon., January 9||Rest Day||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Tues., January 10||Stage 9 – Riyadh to Haradh||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Wed., January 11||Stage 10 – Haradh to Shaybah||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Thurs., January 12||Stage 11 – Shaybah to Empty Quarter Marathon||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Fri., January 13||Stage 12 – Empty Quarter Marathon to Shaybah||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Sat., January 14||Stage 13 – Shaybah to Al-Hofuf||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|
|Sun., January 15||Stages 12 & 13||CNBC*||Noon|
|Sun., January 15||Stage 14 – Al-Hofuf to Dammam||Peacock||6:30 p.m.|