The pinnacle off-road race kick-starts the new year in Saudi Arabian dunes
The 2023 Dakar Rally heads back to Saudi Arabia for its fourth edition on December 31 with the world’s best off-road racers facing 5,000 racing kilometres spread over 14 timed special stages before the chequered flag finally falls at Dammam on January 15. Here is all you need to know:
About the Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally is the pinnacle of the Rally Raid calendar. Rally raid, also known as cross-country rallying, is a form of long-distance off-road racing that takes place over several days.
The Dakar Rally adventure has its origins in 1977 when French motorcycle racer Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. After navigating his way out of the desert, the Frenchman was determined to design a race that drew on his experience with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar. Since that time, the Dakar Rally has evolved from racing in Africa to South America and now to Saudi Arabia.
The race consists of one stage per day comprising at least one “special” stage each (several hundred kilometres long), which may be on or off-road. The total distance covered is several thousand kilometres. The event takes place over a period of ten to fifteen days.
The classification of the stage is made up of the times set in the special stage plus any sporting penalties. The race requires precise navigation, which is done via a roadbook provided by the organisers and handed out at the start of each stage.
The starting order of each special will be based on the times set in the timed sector of the previous stage, including any sporting penalties (e.g. for speeding in link sectors or missing waypoints) incurred during the stage.
The 2023 Dakar Rally will be the longest route since 2014 participants will tackle 5,000 kilometres of specials into a prologue and 14 stages. The Prologue Stage launches on December 31, 2022, in Yanbu by the Red Sea with the field looking to make it all the way across – loaded with more dunes and potential pitfalls than ever before – to Dammam on the Arabian Gulf for a January 15 finish.
The 2023 Dakar Rally Red Bull Athletes
Motorsport’s toughest test of endurance racing sees the Red Bull Desert Wings squad of champions and fresh-faced talents preparing to push themselves to the limit over the gruelling sands of Saudi Arabia.
In the T1 Car Class, Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Mathieu Baumel (FRA) return to Saudi Arabia behind the wheel of a Toyota GR DKR Hilux T1+ with the Qatari driver aiming for a fourth Dakar title. The 51-year-old said: “We’re ready to defend our title. It would be incredible to win again.”
Also using the Toyota Hilux T1+ will be Giniel De Villiers (ZAF)/Dennis Murphy (ZAF) and Lucas Moraes (BRA)/Timo Gottschalk (DEU), while Sébastien Loeb (FRA) returns in his BRX Prodrive Hunter alongside co-driver Fabian Lurquin (BEL) after being runner-up to Al-Attiyah in 2022.
Three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz (ESP) and co-driver Lucas Cruz (ESP) will compete in their Audi RS Q e-tron E2 with Monsieur Dakar himself Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and co-driver Edouard Boulanger (FRA) also joining Mattias Ekström (SWE)/ Emil Bergkvist (SWE) in Audi’s three-pronged assault while Dakar stalwart Kuba Przygoński (POL) competes for MINI with co-driver Armand Monleon (ESP).
Defending Dakar and FIM World Rally-Raid Championship bike champion Sam Sunderland (GBR) will represent Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing as he targets a third Dakar victory. He declared: “The 2023 race is looking to be one of the toughest ever. I’m under no illusion as to what that means.”
Also riding with Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing is Daniel Sanders (AUS) who scored fourth in 2021 with two-time Dakar winner Toby Price back on his KTM 450 Rally bike. The Australian said: “The terrain in Saudi Arabia makes the rally very fast. Some stages are a sprint to the finish.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing also boast former champions Matthias Walkner (AUT) and Kevin Benavides (ARG), while Štefan Svitko (SVK), Mohammed Balooshi (ARE) and Camille Chapelière (FRA) line up too.
In the side-by-side category, a new collaboration between the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and Can-Am sees 20-year-old Seth Quintero (USA) racing a Can-Am Maverick T3 alongside co-driver Dennis Zenz (GER). He said: “I think we’ve got a really good base and shot at winning Dakar.” Seth Quintero holds the record for the most stages won in the Dakar Rally, with 12 stage wins 2022.
Austin ‘AJ’ Jones (USA)/Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) and Mitch Guthrie (USA)/Kellon Walch (USA) also line up with Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) and co-driver Pablo Moreno (ESP) taking charge of a Can-Am Maverick for the first Dakar time. She enthused: “We’re going to have some fun for sure.”
Reigning Dakar T3 champions Chaleco López (CHL) and Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) are now team-mates of Gutiérrez with Rokas Baciuška (LTU)/Oriol Vidal (ESP), Guillaume De Mevius (BEL)/François Cazalet (FRA) and three-time quad race winner Ignacio Casale (CHL) and navigator Alvaro León (CHL) also on the start line as the motorsport world gets set for another titanic tussle over the sand dunes to start the New Year.
Full Red Bull Athlete Participants List:
#1 – Sam Sunderland (GBR) – Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing
#18 – Daniel Sanders (AUS) – Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing
#8 – Toby Price (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
#52 – Matthias Walkner (AUT) – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
#47 – Kevin Benavides (ARG) – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
#25 – Mohammed Balooshi (ARE) – MX Ride Dubai
#26 – Camille Chapelière (FRA) – Team Casteu
#142 – Štefan Svitko (SVK) – Cross Team
#200 – Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) / Mathieu Baumel (FRA) – Toyota Gazoo Racing
#205 – Giniel de Villiers (ZAF) / Dennis Murphy (ZAF) – Toyota Gazoo Racing
#230 – Lucas Moraes (BRA) / Timo Gottschalk (DEU) – Toyota Gazoo Racing
#201 – Sébastien Loeb (FRA) / Fabian Lurquin (BEL) – Bahrain Raid Xtreme
#207 – Carlos Sainz (ESP) / Lucas Cruz (ESP) – Team Audi Sport
#204 – Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) / Edouard Boulanger (FRA) – Team Audi Sport
#211 – Mattias Ekström (SWE) / Emil Bergkvist (SWE) – Team Audi Sport
#222 – Laia Sanz (ESP) / Maurizio Gerini (ITA) – Astara Team
#203 – Kuba Przygoński (POL) / Armand Monleon (ESP) – X-Raid MINI JCW Team
#300 – Francisco ‘Chaleco’ López (CHL) / Juan Pablo Latrach (CHL) – Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing
#302 – Cristina Gutiérrez (ESP) / Pablo Moreno (ESP) – Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing
#400 – Rokas Baciuška (LTU) / Oriol Vidal (ESP) – Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing
#301 – Seth Quintero (USA) / Dennis Zenz (GER) – Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team presented by BF Goodrich
#303 – Austin ‘AJ’ Jones (USA) / Gustavo Gugelmin (BRA) – Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team presented by BF Goodrich
#314 – Mitch Guthrie (USA) / Kellon Walch (USA) – Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team presented by BF Goodrich
#304 – Guillaume De Mevius (BEL) / François Cazalet (FRA) – GRally Team
#322 – Ignacio Casale (CHL) / Alvaro León (CHL) – X-raid Yamaha Racing Supported Team
Explore more Dakar Rally content HERE.