2023 Dakar Rally: Romain Dumontier shines in Rally2

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Credit: Julien Delfosse

Rally2 might not have the same prestige as the top-level RallyGP, but perhaps that adds to its charm as amateurs and those with burgeoning rally raid careers duke it out. Many of the sixty-three Rally2 riders who ultimately made the finish to be classified in the 2023 Dakar Rally came to Saudi Arabia as privateers, riders hoping to make a name for themselves, or boasted little prior experience in the discipline.

Romain Dumontier fell more under the second category. He spent the 2022 Rally—his first time at Dakar—and the World Rally-Raid Championship chasing Mason Klein, but with Klein having since graduated to RallyGP, Dumontier immediately pounced. Riding a Husqvarna with some factory support from HT Rally Raid, the Frenchman dominated the 2023 edition after assuming the overall lead in Stage #5, a day after winning the previous leg, and never relinquished the top spot from there. Dumontier’s other victories came in Stages #5, #6, #9, #11, #12, and the final #14.

“I got stronger after two delicate first days, a second week with three top tens, a top 5, but also seven stage wins in Rally2,” said Dumontier. “I was able to ride throughout these two weeks at my level, never above. I wanted to be in control and not get scared. I was able to follow the rhythm of the stage winners and see the commitment it took to be at the top of the rankings.”

Paolo Lucci set the tone early by winning the first stage but fell behind after crashing in Stage #5. Although Lucci presented the greatest overall challenge to Dumontier, the margin between them grew with even the slightest misstep by Lucci; a waypoint and punctured water pump in Stage #9 was effectively the death blow as he fell from 16:25 back to nearly half an hour. Although he closed the gap at times, it only re-inflated in the final five stages to thirty-two minutes.

Although Michael Docherty was over an hour behind Dumontier, his Dakar début was a memorable run for any Rally2 rider. His performance fluctuated between stage wins and hanging on in the top ten during the first half, but the second saw him step up his game to compete with every bike in general as he even kept pace with RallyGP. He finished third overall in Stage #10 behind factory riders Ross Branch and Adrien van Beveren before finding himself fighting with Luciano Benavides for the Stage #13 overall win. Benavides edged out Docherty but received a speeding penalty that briefly promoted Docherty to the top spot before the former’s brother Kevin ultimately claimed the win en route to the overall Rally victory.

Rally2 was not exempt from the trials and tribulations of a particularly difficult Dakar route than previous years. Days before the Rally even started (and maybe a sign of things to come for the field), Ignacio Sanchís clipped a rock during pre-race shakedown and suffered multiple fractures that forced him to abort what would have been his fourth start. Eduardo Sánchez was the first race-related retirement following a crash in the Prologue. Ace Nilson, friend of The Checkered Flag, fractured three of his vertebrae after wrecking in the fifth stage, while Edouard Leconte‘s final Dakar Rally ended on the tenth leg with a broken fibula when he fell into a gorge. Ruben Saldaña Goñi missed some stages after hurting his clavicle in Stage #2 but returned and, somewhat dubiously, got to be the first rider to start the final stage as the running order is inverted.

Ultimately, owing to said challenges and their backgrounds, many of the Rally2 entries were more than happy to simply finish. Among those who succeeded in their first tries were Thomas Kongshøj, the first rider from Denmark since 2011 in thirty-first, and 2019 FIM Junior Bajas World Cup champion Tomás de Gavardo in forty-sixth. Ottavio Missoni Jr., who hails from a legendary fashion family, was the sixty-third and final classified rider.

While much of the Rally2 field ran brands like Husqvarna and KTM, with others in smaller manufacturers such as Fantic, Hero, and Sherco, Kove Moto provided one of the top newcomer stories. The Chinese make fielded a triumvirate of Kove 450s for countrymen Deng Liansong, Fang Mingji, and Sunier Sunier, all of whom successfully completed the Rally with Sunier twenty-seventh in class ahead of Minji and Liansong, who finished next to each other in thirty-ninth and fortieth. Kove had only been operating since 2017 but is beginning to expand its presence globally with new efforts for 2023 like Dakar and even the World Superbike Championship.

Mirjam Pol was the lone female rider in Rally2 and finished fifty-second. It was her tenth Dakar, thereby qualifying her for Dakar Legend status, since 2009.

“What majestic dunes we drove through,” recalled Pol after finishing the last stage. “The last few days in the Empty Quarter I had so much fun in the sand, wonderful. […] All in all, I noticed that I have grown tremendously overall, and I am definitely not at my top yet. I have enjoyed my tenth Dakar Rally immensely and am looking forward to what is yet to come my way.”

Rally2 overall top ten

117Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Raicng46:31:44Leader
246Paolo LucciBAS World KTM Racing Team47:03:58+ 32:14
3111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing47:48:27+ 1:16:43
476Jeanloup LepanNomade Racing48:04:31+ 1:32:47
5114Neels Theric*RS Comcept48:37:05+ 2:05:21
683Julien Jagu*Drag’on Rally Team48:38:16+ 2:06:32
731Mathieu DovezeNomade Racing48:45:41+ 2:13:57
896Jacob ArgubrightDUUST Rally Team48:49:16+ 2:17:32
953Toni MulecHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing49:47:49+ 3:16:05
1037Stefano Caimi*BAS World KTM Racing Team50:44:23+ 4:12:39
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Rally2 stage winners

Prologue111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing42:55
Stage #146Paolo LucciBAS World KTM Racing Team4:38:48
Stage #2111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing5:29:44
Stage #346Paolo LucciBAS World KTM Racing Team4:43:45
Stage #417Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing4:47:09
Stage #517Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing4:42:22
Stage #617Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing3:25:20
Stage #7N/ACancelled due to rainN/AN/A
Stage #8111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing3:54:18
Stage #917Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing3:24:54
Stage #10111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing1:44:30
Stage #1117Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing3:03:33
Stage #1217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing2:02:17
Stage #13111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing2:22:14
Stage #1417Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing1:23:21

Overall winners

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing45:03:15
T2250Ronald Basso*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body107:39:42
T3303Austin JonesRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team51:55:53
T4428Eryk GoczałEnergyLandia Rally Team53:10:14
T5502Janus van KasterenBoss Machinery Team de Rooy IVECO54:03:33
RallyGP47Kevin BenavidesRed Bull KTM Factory Racing44:27:20
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing47:03:58
Malle Moto40Charan Moore*HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing52:24:42
Quad151Alexandre Giroud*Drag’on Rally Team56:44:30
Classic778Juan Morera*Toyota Classic428 points
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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