2023 Dakar Rally: Stage 8 shakes up Bike battle

3 Mins read
Credit: Hero MotoSports

After not racing Stage #7 for weather reasons, the Bikes returned to the Dakar Rally with a bang as the overall and stage battles stole the show from the four-wheelers in Stage #8.

Perhaps the biggest story of the run from Dawadmi back to Riyadh came in RallyGP as Ross Branch scored the stage victory ahead of former overall leader Daniel Sanders by three minutes and fifteen seconds. The win is Branch’s second at Dakar and first since Stage #2 in 2020, as well as the second for Hero MotoSports after Joaquim Rodrigues claimed the third leg in 2022. Hero is the first Indian manufacturer to claim a Dakar stage victory.

“It has been a tough week, and I’m really happy to go into the rest day with a stage win,” said Branch. “This morning I felt really good, the bike was excellent, and I decided to push as hard as I could. It was a good stage, the navigation was fine, and I horoughly enjoyed it as I went all out and raced the whole thing.”

Overall leader Skyler Howes was a distant twentieth; he and many of the frontrunners like Toby Price and Stage #6 winner Luciano Benavides finished outside the top ten as the rest of the field, who started their race after them, quickly caught up to them. Mason Klein initially leapfrogged Howes for the general lead after finishing runner-up, but received a two-minute speeding penalty that relegated him by one position in the stage. Nevertheless, Klein and Kevin Benavides (finished tenth) are both only thirteen seconds behind Howes in the overall, compared to the previous stage when Price was second and trailed Howes by 3:31.

Hero was not the only manufacturer celebrating after the stage as the Prodrive Hunters placed all three remaining entries in the top ten, with Sébastien Loeb taking his second win of the Rally ahead of leader Nasser Al-Attiyah. Guerlain Chicherit was sixth while Stage #7 runner-up Vaidotas Žala squeezed into tenth after overcoming an early tyre puncture. The Hunters have been plagued by bad luck throughout the race, though Loeb’s victory upgrades him to fourth overall.

“Three out of eight for the Prodrive Hunter plus BRX is up to fourth place overall with Seb so the rest day is very well deserved tomorrow,” commented Loeb’s Bahrain Raid Xtreme team principal Gus Beteli. “Sure, there’ll be a lot of work to do but the vibe is good here at the BRX camp after all three cars made the top ten again today.”

João Ferreira, the defending FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas champion, beat back an army of Red Bulls to score his first T3 stage win. He had seventeen seconds on Francisco López Contardo, while Mitch Guthrie completed the T3 podium ahead of Austin Jones.

South Racing swept the T4 podium with Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli, Yasir Seaidan, and Gerard Farrés all finishing within 3:18 of each other. Pau Navarro prevented South Racing from sweeping the top five by finishing fourth, though his FN Speed Team is an ally of South.

The overall leaders in every class remained the same between the seventh and eighth stages.

Stage #9 will take place on Tuesday as Monday will be a rest day in Riyadh.

Stage #8 winners

T1201Sébastien LoebBahrain Raid Xtreme3:34:24
T2246Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body5:28:06
T3337João FerreiraX-raid Team4:11:36
T4412Jeremías Gonzalez Ferioli*South Racing Can-Am4:16:18
T5501Martin Macík Jr.MM Technology4:04:28
RallyGP16Ross BranchHero MotoSports3:46:18
Rally2111Michael DochertyHT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing3:54:18
Malle Moto40Charan Moore*HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing4:29:23
Quad152Manuel Andújar7240 Team4:56:05
Classic778Juan Morera*Toyota Classic38 points
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #8

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing31:02:58
T2250Ronald Basso*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body56:37:39
T3304Guillaume de Mevius*GRallyTeam36:03:09
T4400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Team37:33:31
T5508Aleš Loprais*InstaForex Loprais Praga36:30:58
RallyGP10Skyler HowesHusqvarna Factory Racing30:34:16
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing32:09:30
Malle Moto40Charan Moore*HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing35:52:35
Quad151Alexandre Giroud*Drag’on Rally Team37:57:04
Classic778Juan Morera*Toyota Classic271 points

Official stage highlights

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