2023 Dakar Rally: Carlos Sainz, Ricky Brabec win turmoil-filled Stage 1

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Credit: Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

Formula One driver Carlos Sainz Jr. made the trip to Saudi Arabia to watch his father race in the Dakar Rally, and Dad delivered. Despite an early tyre puncture, Carlos Sainz Sr. made up lost ground to top the Cars in Stage #1.

Audi team-mate Mattias Ekström, who won the Prologue, continued his strong performance by leading much the 600-kilometre opening stage but fell back in the later portion to Sainz and Sébastien Loeb. Ekström eventually received a fifteen-minute time penalty for missing a waypoint that dropped him to thirteenth. Sainz held off Loeb by just ten seconds for the T1 win.

Nasser Al-Attiyah finished third, ensuring the T1 podium would fully consist of different manufacturers as his Toyota Hilux joined Sainz’s Audi and Loeb’s Prodrive Hunter.

“We had one puncture at the beginning so after that we proceeded with caution over the stones,” said Sainz. “Then we were able to up the speed towards the end of the stage.”

Red Bulls dominated the T3 class as defending World Rally-Raid Champion Francisco López Contardo topped the class with American Junior Team racers Seth Quintero, Austin Jones, and Mitch Guthrie respectively placing third, fourth, and sixth. Guillaume de Mevius, a former Red Bull member, broke up the party by finishing second, one minute and forty-nine seconds back of López.

Rokas Baciuška appeared to complete another Red Bull Can-Am sweep by topping T4, but was docked fifteen minutes for missing a waypoint and relegated to ninth. Consequently, Eryk Goczał—who impressed by finishing fourth in the Prologue—was promoted to the win ahead of fellow 18-year-old Pau Navarro and surpassed Seth Quintero as the youngest Dakar stage winner. His uncle Michal Goczał joined him on the podium.

The Bikes were overshadowed by defending winner Sam Sunderland‘s scary wreck that ended his race after fifty-two kilometres. He was airlifted to hospital for a concussion and broken shoulder but eventually discharged and returned to the bivouac. Fellow rider Matthias Walkner stopped to assist him and thereby received a time credit.

“I am more or less ok, a broken shoulder blade, big hematoma on my back and a concussion,” posted Sunderland on social media. “I feel quite embarrassed to be laid here typing this out, being out of dakar on day one is a tough pill to swallow. I want to first express my disappointment for my team who have worked so hard to give me the tools to defend this number 1 and deserve much more, also to my partners that support me. These moments are what make the victories so special. I felt really good this morning and was leading for the short part of the stage I rode then I have missed a stone under the sand in a river bed and had a pretty violent crash. Thank you @matthias_walkner for stopping to help me and to the @dakarrally medical crew for making sure I was safe. I will try to learn from this and I hope my teammates can bring home the result the team deserve.”

With Sunderland out of the picture, Americans ruled the day. RallyGP newcomer Mason Klein looked to be the favourite with Ricky Brabec in tow before Australia’s Daniel Sanders and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla closed the gap. Klein dropped out of the top five as Sanders and Quintanilla unofficially topped the chart before both received speeding penalties to promote Brabec to the stage win. Sanders was relegated to sixth while Quintanilla was seventh.

“Goal number one was not to open the stage,” commented Brabec, referring to starting twenty-first despite finishing tenth in the Prologue as the top ten riders were allowed to select their starting position. “I feel quite well and confident after today, but I will just try to go day by day, keep pace and stay in the Top 10. It’s going to be hard to be out of the lead, like we saw today, but we have to see how it goes until the rest day. Today was fairly simple, no stress, it was a great day.”

Paolo Lucci won in Rally2 by twenty-one seconds over Manuel Andujar. Lucci’s BAS World team-mate Bradley Cox retired after hitting a broken dune and dislocating his elbow. Malle Moto (which is grouped with Rally2) was topped by Charan Moore; Tiziano Internó and Libor Podmol both crashed out though the former will still continue while the latter has retired after breaking a vertebra.

Amid the penalties and rider crashes, the biggest incident of the day came when Michel Kremer‘s #247 Century CR6 caught fire; fortunately, Kremer and co-driver Thomas de Bois were able to get away unharmed. Oscar Fuertes of Astara Team flipped after his Astara Team 01 Concept—a variation of the CR6—hit a sand mound and landed on its wheels, ending his day.

NASCAR Whelen Euro Series president Jérôme Galpin topped the Dakar Classic with fifty-seven points, a twenty-eight-point advantage over Juan Morera. The Classic uses a points system rather than time like the main Dakar Rally as it is a navigation-based event with no bearing on the World Rally-Raid Championship. Like in golf, the winner of the Classic is whomever accumulates the fewest points, which are acquired through making errors.

Stage #1 winners

T1207Carlos SainzTeam Audi Sport3:28:55
T2250Ronald Basso*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body7:44:44
T3300Francisco López ContardoRed Bull Can-Am Factory Team3:57:40
T4428Eryk GoczałEnergyLandia Rally Team4:11:58
T5501Martin Macík Jr.MM Technology3:57:18
RallyGP2Ricky BrabecMonster Energy Honda Rally Team4:14:10
Rally246Paolo LucciBAS World KTM Racing Team4:38:48
Malle Moto40Charan Moore*HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing4:47:52
Quad151Alexandre Giroud*Drag’on Rally Team4:55:28
Classic701Jérôme Galpin*Team FJ57 points
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Official stage highlights

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