Dakar 2023 | Nasser Al Attiyah wins fifth Dakar Rally; Benavides on top in bikes as Hero Motorsports finish in top 10
The 2023 Dakar Rally has been one of the most interesting and unusual in recent times. Covering a distance of more than 8,000km, the rally covered most of Saudi Arabia and even went through one of the world's most inhospitable pieces of land, the Rub Al-Khali, or the Empty Quarter. With 14 gruelling stages and many stories written this year, we now know the winners.
In cars, Nasser Al Attiyah cemented his status as one of the most significant rally drivers of all time as he won his fifth Dakar Rally, putting him second on the all-time list behind Stephane Peterhansel. Winning by 1hr 20m 49s, the number belies what was a supremely cool and confident drive by the Qatari driver. Speaking of astonishing feats, this year’s edition of the Dakar saw a historical comeback drive from rally legend Sebastian Loeb, who at one point was in 54th place. Finding more pace in his Prodrive BRX Hunter buggy as the stages passed, the Frenchman won seven stages in all, including six in a row, something not done since Carlos Sainz in 2011, and a record. Peterhansel and Sainz, meanwhile, suffered one of the most indignant Dakar campaigns in recent memory, as their Factory Audi team effort turned into a nightmare rife with crashes, reliability issues, broken parts and broken dreams. Eventually, both retired, with Audi surely going back home with a ton of homework.
Toyota had one of their best showings at the rally, with three drivers following Loeb home with Lucas Moraes, Giniel de Villiers and Henk Lategan driving safe and bringing their cars home.
The Bikes category saw one of the fiercest fights in recent Dakar history, with a bunch of different riders from different manufacturers in the hunt for victory. Going into the final stage, Toby Price on his KTM lead his teammate Kevin Benavides by just 12s. However, Benavides managed to turn the tide with help from a navigation mistake by Price to win the Rally by 43s. This is his second victory after winning in 2021 on a Honda.
There were even more competitors for the title. Skyler Howes on his Husqvarna finished in P3 after six stages in the lead, while no less than 10 riders scored stage wins. Kevin Benavides only won the last two stages. One of those stage winners was Ross Branch, riding a Hero Motorsports 450 Rally, who gave Indian fans some of the best moments in this year’s rally. However, it was Franco Caimi whose calm and collected ride helped Hero collect a top-10 finish in the Dakar Rally, with P10. Sebastian Buhler finished in P20 while Ross Branch, despite his two stage wins, ended up in P26. This goes to show what was a great recovery effort by the team and riders who had suffered a torrid time in the early stages.
Overall, this year’s Dakar Rally will not leave our minds in a hurry, and it is only Round 1 of the 2023 World Rally Raid Championship. Let’s hope there’s even more intense action to come later this year!