South African Toyota Hiluxes are in complete control of Dakar 2023 after a catastrophic Day 6 for the petrol-electric Audi team. Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel’s Gazoo Racing Hilux DKR T1+ steamed to their third stage win of the race and their second on the trot from Sebastien Loeb’s BRX Hunter. Attiyah opened up an hour’s advantage at the head of a Toyota overall 1-2-3-4 on Friday.
AL ATTIYAH, TOYOTA IN COMPLETE CONTROL
The race was turned on its head when both Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz crashed their second and third placed Audis heavily at the same point 212 km into the day’s stage. Peterhansel’s navigator Edouard Boulanger hurt his back, eliminating them from the race. Sainz and Lucas Cruz were left stranded in the desert as they waited for back-up to arrive.
The thrilling Dakar 2023 bike race delivered its seventh different winner in seven days when Luciano Benavides led Skyler Howes home in a Husqvarna 1-2. South African amateurs, second among the rookies Michael Docherty and new Malle Moto Original leader Charan Moore continued to star. The drama started before the day even commenced in icy 6C temperatures, when the overnight bivouac was relocated to Riyadh and the stage shortened by approximately 100 km to 358 km after extreme storms in the area.
BARAGWANATH BACK IN TOP SIX ON DAY 6
Peterhansel, Sainz, Al Attiyah, Loeb and Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi fought it out early on, before third overall, Al Rajhi hit trouble and stopped. Then the Audis went out dramatically, leaving Al Attiyah to take an easy three-and-a-half-minute victory over 9-time World Rally Champion Loeb in his Prodrive Hunter alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin. South African crew Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings (top) placed third to make it two South African built Gazoo Racing Hiluxes on the podium.
Loeb’s BRX teammates, Guerlain Chicherit and Vaidotas Zala followed ahead of Mattias Ekstrom’s surviving Audi in sixth. SA Century Factory Racing CR6-T crews, Frenchmen Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier, and Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer were 8th and 10th with the delayed SA Hilux crew Giniel De Villiers and Dennis Murphy 24th.
HOWES LEADS BIKES AFTER DAY 6
That leaves Al Attiyah in a commanding lead from teammate Lategan, rookie Hilux privateer Lukas Moraes, and de Villiers. Ekstrom is a close fifth from Loeb and former Le Mans winner Romain Dumas in another Hilux. Back in the top ten, T1.2 4×2 class leader Baragwanath sits 9th overall with teammate Serradori 16th. SA navigators, Ryan Bland lies 35th alongside Daniel Schröder, and Gerhard Schutte 43rd with Tom Bell. All four of their SA Red-Lined team bakkies are still running strong , with Schroder and Bland leading the T1.1 class.
Friday’s bike race was far less complicated. Argentine Luciano Benavides became the seventh different bike winner in seven days when he led a Factory Husqvarna 1-2 over Skyler Howes and Toby Price’s KTM. Joan Barreda’s Honda was fourth from Kevin Benavides’ KTM, Pablo Quintanilla’s Honda, Daniel Sanders’ GasGas and Jose Florimo’s Honda. Flormino led Howes early on before Howes took over, only to be pipped at the post by teammate Benavides.
MOORE LEADS MALLE MOTO AFTER DAY 6
Botswana’s Ross branch ended 18th on his Hero. South African Michael Docherty was 28th to stay second among the rookies. His FK Husqvarna teammate and countryman Charan Moore rode in 32nd and was the second Malle Moto bike home, to move himself into an 11 minute Original class overall lead. Their compatriots were still racing, Stuart Gregory in 67th, Stevan Wilken 78th and lady heroine Kirsten Landman 87th.
Howes leads the bikes overall by three minutes. Price is third from Kevin Benavides, Barreda, van Beveren and Quintanilla. Docherty is 23rd overall, Moore 32nd and Branch 38th. Gregory sat 71st, Landman 80th and Wilken 84th. Dominant Alexandre Giroud was finally beaten by Manuel Andujar in the quads. Giroud followed ahead of Moreno Flores and Pablo Copetti.
Still racing on Friday, Janus van Kasteren, Darek Rodewald and Marcel Snijders’s Iveco led Mitchel van den Brink’s and Martin Macik’s similar machines in the trucks. Martin van den Brink, Rijk Mouw Erik Kofman’s Iveco led overall from Thursday winner Ales Loprais’ Praga and van Kasteren. Michal led Marek Goczal and overall leader Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira in the T4s from Rokas Baciuska.
Overall leaders and Friday winners Guilaume de Mevius and Francois Casalet’s GR led the T3prototypes from Ignacio Casale’s Yamaha and Austin Jones’s Can Am after Seth Quintero and Dennis Zenz won on Friday. SA crew Eben Basson and Abertus Pienaar’s GR Rally ran 12th on the road and 10th overall, while Geoff Minnitt and Gerhard Snyman were lying 31st on the stage and 18th overall.
The length and status of Saturday’s stage 7 originally slated to be the longest of Dakar 2023 remains in limbo as organisers scramble to reorganise after today’s shift to Riyadh.
Words: Motorsport Media