2023 Dakar Rally: Toby Price gains upper hand in biker war

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Credit: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Entering the Empty Quarter Marathon, Toby Price led the Bike overall classification. After the first half of the Marathon, he sat second behind Skyler Howes by just twenty-eight seconds. By the end, he had the advantage over Howes by that same margin.

Price finished Stage #12 third in the Bikes behind José Ignacio Cornejo and Daniel Sanders, and his time of 1:59:25 gave him 40:47:36, ahead of Howes’ 40:48:04. Despite Howes having led the overall for half the Rally, he finished sixth and fifty-six seconds back of Price. The latter also benefitted from the one minute and eighteen seconds chopped from his final time via the Automatic Bonus as the third bike to depart the leg.

“After a really average sleep last night in the [tent] we felt reasonably good coming into Stage 12, which we finished 3rd and now have the outright lead with a couple more stages to go,” wrote Price. “It’s safe to say it’s a really close race right now, as we all know anything can happen, a tiny little mistake or getting stuck in the dunes can really cost you the race so we’ll see how we go, let’s keep fighting.”

Although Howes is now the chaser, the margin is still less than half a minute with two stages remaining. Kevin Benavides is also within striking distance at just 2:40 behind Price.

“The Empty Quarter really does live up to its name, just an endless sea of dunes,” said Howes. “It’s really exciting to go into the last couple of days with the race so close. Both halves of the marathon stage went well. I think I was able to ride both days at a good, consistent pace. I was able to preserve myself and the bike without any issues, which is super important. So now I’m looking ahead at the last two stages of the race. Neither of them are very long, so with things so tight on the leaderboard, I really think this battle is going to run right up to the finish line.”

With the other major class leaders from Stage #11 keeping their top spots for another day, the biggest standings shift for the FIA categories came in T1. While Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s lead by nearly one-and-a-half hours is virtually insurmountable, Sébastien Loeb won his fifth straight stage to surpass Al-Attiyah’s Toyota ally Lucas Moraes for second overall. Moraes was ahead of Loeb by 9:37 prior Friday’s stage, but Loeb immediately closed the gap and won with an 11:38 edge over Moraes who finished tenth.

Things have also tightened in the Trucks: Janus van Kasteren won his second stage to remain atop the order, but Martin van den Brink—despite multiple gearbox and motor issues—was able to cut the gap in half and finish third to now trail by 33:03. On the other hand, the margins have grown between the T3 leaders as Austin Jones is now ahead of Red Bull team-mate Seth Quintero by over an hour; Red Bull’s Rokas Baciuška also increased his advantage in T4 over Eryk Goczał by just over three minutes, though Goczał is just 7:43 behind. The latter’s uncle Michal Goczał won the stage in T4, meaning all three competing family members (Eryk, father Marek, and Michal) claimed a leg in 2023.

After leading a surprise X-raid Yamaha T3 podium sweep to open the Marathon, Ricardo Porém finished sixth. João Ferreira, the runner-up in Stage #11, elected to skip the next day to allow his team to make necessary adjustments to his vehicle that were not possible during the no-crew Marathon; as an FIA priority driver, he is allowed to skip a stage without it impacting his overall eligibility. Ignacio Casale, who was third on Thursday, fell short of the stage win to Mitch Guthrie by twenty-nine seconds.

Stage #12 winners

T1201Sébastien LoebBahrain Raid Xtreme1:56:21
T2246Akira Miura*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body4:38:07
T3314Mitch GuthrieRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team2:17:11
T4405Michal GoczałEnergyLandia Rally Team2:19:07
T5502Janus van KasterenBoss Machinery Team de Rooy IVECO2:30:38
RallyGP11José Ignacio CornejoMonster Energy Honda Rally Team1:57:27
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing2:02:17
Malle Moto40Charan Moore*HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing2:11:49
Quad159Marcelo Medeiros*Taguatar Racing Team2:37:04
Classic750Urbano Alfonso Gherardo ClericiTecnosport15 points
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

Leaders after Stage #12

T1200Nasser Al-AttiyahToyota Gazoo Racing41:16:25
T2250Ronald Basso*Team Land Cruiser Toyota Auto Body83:09:41
T3303Austin JonesRed Bull Off-Road Junior Team47:39:47
T4400Rokas BaciuškaRed Bull Can-Am Factory Team49:02:02
T5502Janus van KasterenBoss Machinery Team de Rooy IVECO49:32:50
RallyGP8Toby PriceRed Bull KTM Factory Racing40:47:36
Rally217Romain DumontierTeam Dumontier Racing42:44:04
Malle Moto99Javi Vega*Pont Grup Yamaha48:09:35
Quad151Alexandre Giroud*Drag’on Rally Team51:50:39
Classic778Juan MoreraToyota Classic390 points
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