2023 Dakar Rally: Empty Quarter Marathon begins with Yamaha T3 sweep

3 Mins read
Credit: X-raid Team

The Empty Quarter Marathon, a two-day run through the eponymous and massive Saudi desert where racers may not receive assistance from their crews, began on Thursday and has already produced a handful of surprises. While some things remained constant in Stage #11 like Sébastien Loeb recording his fourth straight stage win, changes of pace came in areas like T3 where a trio of YXZ1000R Turbo Prototypes fielded by X-raid Team swept the podium.

After coming to life in the second half of the stage, Ricardo Porém led the Yamaha podium ahead of João Ferreira and Ignacio Casale. The trio finished within twenty-two seconds of each other, with Ferreira and Casale separated by just two seconds. The next closest Prototypes were the Red Bull Can-Ams of Seth Quintero and new overall leader Austin Jones, both over six minutes behind. Guillaume de Mevius lost the top spot overall after experiencing mechanical problems as the leg began.

The win is Yamaha’s second in T3 since the category’s introduction in 2021 after Ferreira, the reigning FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion, claimed Stage #8 four days ago; both were major upsets as the other nine legs have been dominated by Can-Ams or Red Bulls (or both). All of the Japanese manufacturer’s Dakar wins have come in the FIM classes, which is especially reinforced in the Quad category where everyone is riding a Yamaha Raptor.

“Actually, our main goal was to get through the first day of the marathon stage without any problems. The victory is like a gift we received to compensate for the hard days,” Porém remarked.

While Yamaha got to enjoy double stage wins in T3 and Quad as Marcelo Medeiros claimed the latter, the same could not be said for twice stage victor Manuel Andújar as he was forced to exit with trouble to his Raptor.

Other new names atop the standings include Mário Patrão winning Malle Moto ahead of Javi Vega, the latter now the class overall leader after Charan Moore finished sixth. Another lead change comes in RallyGP as Skyler Howes ends Kevin Benavides‘ one-day reign to retake the throne for himself; Benavides’ brother and Howes’ Husqvarna team-mate Luciano Benavides won his third stage.

Meanwhile, Loeb becomes the first driver to take four consecutive stages in the top level of Cars since Carlos Sainz in 2009. Fellow Prodrive Hunter Guerlain Chicherit finished runner-up as the two continue to rebound from their tumultuous first half. Although the T1 overall is all but sealed by Nasser Al-Attiyah, Loeb’s back-to-back-to-back-to-back narrows the gap for second. Lucas Moraes, who finished fourth, now only leads Loeb for the second spot by 9:37 compared to nearly sixteen minutes prior to the Marathon.

On the other hand, the Hunter of Vaidotas Žala continues his roller coaster of a Rally as his gearbox broke with twenty kilometres remaining, forcing him to wait until the T5 truck of Alberto Herrero arrived to tow him to the finish. Žala has endured an up-and-down race that has seen him either finish in the top ten or retire with mechanical issues: he has exited four of eleven stages while six resulted in top-ten finishes, with the exception being an eleventh in Stage #1.

“Seb drove brilliantly today to give us here at Bahrain Raid Xtreme another stage victory to now make six from eleven stages so far, proof of the hard work that everyone here on the rally and those back at Prodrive International have done since the start of this project,” said BRX principal Gus Beteli. “We’re now within striking distance of second overall too. With Guerlain making second place it was another good day for BRX although frustrating for Vaidotas after a strong start to the stage. However there are sure to be some further twists and turns over the remaining three days before Sunday.”

Stage #11 winners

T1201Sébastien LoebBahrain Raid Xtreme2:56:14
T2246Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body4:44:35
T3328Ricardo Porém*X-raid Team3:19:11
T4400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Team3:25:13
T5506Martin van den Brink*Eurol Rally Sport3:39:52
RallyGP77Luciano BenavidesHusqvarna Factory Racing2:57:59
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing3:33:33
Malle Moto43Mário Patrão*Mário Patrão Motorsport3:29:30
Quad15Marcelo Medeiros*Taguatur Racing Team3:50:47
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #11

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing39:16:33
T2246Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body104:57:03
T3303Austin JonesRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team45:19:15
T4400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Team46:42:42
T5502Janus van KasterenBoss Machinery Team de Rooy IVECO47:02:12
RallyGP10Skyler HowesHusqvarna Factory Racing38:47:43
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing40:41:47
Malle Moto99Javi Vega*Pont Grup Yamaha45:51:09
Quad151Alexandre Giroud*Drag’on Rally Team48:31:56

Official stage highlights

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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