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Daniel Sanders Takes Over 2023 Dakar Rally Lead With Stage Three Victory

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Photo of rally rider Daniel Sanders in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
Continuing with his positive start to this year’s Dakar, Daniel Sanders excelled through the sandy stage three to not only win but turn a three-minute deficit into a four-minute advantage at the top of the results. Photo: Rally Zone

Daniel Sanders has raced to his first stage win of the 2023 Dakar Rally ahead of Skyler Howes and Mason Klein, moving into the provisional overall lead.

Heavy rain shortened the stage to 377 kilometres and Sanders siezed the opportunity to make up considerable time on his rivals, Sanders did so with a dominant stage victory and now enjoys a more-than-four-minute advantage at the head of the field.

When we think about the Dakar Rally, it’s normally sunny, hot and full of sand. Today’s special stage was 447 kilometers long and offered the riders an impressive variety of terrains and sensations. Still some challenging rocky tracks on the horizon, dirt and sandy tracks made this day – leaving for the end some unusual showers and mud to welcome all at the Ha’Il bivouac!

Monster Energy Honda Team had today a major casualty, after the abandonment of Ricky Brabec. The first American to win the Dakar Rally, back in 2020, has suffered a fall after 274 km of the special stage. He was rescued by helicopter and is safe at the local hospital. After all exams, the medical staff at Ha’Il hospital confirms he has no fractures or other severe condition. For precaution, he will remain under observation for another 24 hours, but his condition is good.

Continuing with his positive start to this year’s Dakar, Daniel Sanders excelled through the sandy stage three to not only win but turn a three-minute deficit into a four-minute advantage at the top of the results. But tomorrow is when things might get interesting for the Aussie charger. As the first rider to enter stage four, he will be the first to carve a line through the rolling sand dunes, to the benefit of his chasing competitors. But given his current confidence and precise navigating skills, should Daniel clock in with another solid result, it would be an incredibly pivotal day in the desert for our man from down under.

“Yeah, that’ll do! It’s nice to get a stage win and be leading, for sure,” Sanders said. “I knew my pace was good and I felt strong today, so after refueling I pushed on to the end. I had a great chance to make some time up today, which I did, and now I’m leading so it’s all good! Tomorrow will be tough though as I’ll be leading out, so it’ll be important to stay focused, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Photo of rally rider Skyler Howes in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
Second on the stage for the stage moves Skyler Howes from seventh up to fourth in the provisional rankings. Photo: Rally Zone

Skyler Howes delivered an exceptional performance to post the second fastest time, despite being disadvantaged as one of the first competitors to enter the stage.

Taking on the longest stage of the event so far as the third rider into the special was a huge challenge for Skyler Howes. However, after passing one rider ahead of him and catching up to the other, Howes stayed focused on his navigation and delivered an outstanding ride that would ultimately see him claim second at the end of the day. Initially completing the day as third fastest, the American then moved up to second after one of his rivals was docked two minutes for speeding. The result for the stage moves Skyler from seventh up to fourth in the provisional rankings.

“Honestly, this has to be one of the best days I’ve ever had on a motorcycle,” Howes reflected. “The sand was wet and so nice to ride, the mountains here are huge and incredibly beautiful, I can’t describe how it felt to race through there. There was a couple of times when we headed right into the worst of the weather, but luckily, we missed it. I’m really happy with my time today. Mason (Klein) did a really good job of opening, and I was able to catch up with him and just focus on my own navigation through the long stage. I picked up some good bonus time for being the second rider through the stage, so that seems to have worked out well. I’ll be up near the front again tomorrow, so another challenging day but I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo of rally rider Mason Klein in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
Stage two winner Mason Klein is still well and truly in the hunt after finishing third on stage three.

Third on the stage, seven minutes behind Sanders, Mason Klein has lost the lead in the Dakar general rankings by a little more than four minutes. The new bonus rules favoured him, meaning he limited the damage when opening, a position which he claims to prefer.

“It was really good to open, I enjoyed every second of it,” Klein said. “It’s so nice making all your own decisions. I felt really in control. I don’t know if I’ve ever navigated any better. This is a really good day for me. I like opening. I love it, I don’t know why. I prefer it. I feel I make less mistakes. I’m doing the work and it’s nice. The bonuses are nice. It’s been really great so far. The terrain was amazing. Not so rocky as yesterday. It was just a really good ride, I guess. Really nice views and I actually got to have a good look around today. The weather was perfect for riding, I think. It wasn’t too cold, it was amazing, a perfect day”.

Photo of rally rider Kevin Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
Despite incurring a two-minute penalty, Kevin Benavides’ fourth-place result moves the 2021 Dakar champion up to provisional third. Photo: Rally Zone

Kevin Benavides posted the fourth quickest time and as the eighth rider into the stage, was well-placed to chase down the seven riders ahead of him. And despite times being tight at the top of the leaderboard, the Argentinian put in a consistent ride to move quickly inside the top three and remain there for the majority of the stage. Despite incurring a two-minute penalty, Benavides’ fourth-place result moves the 2021 Dakar champion up to provisional third in the overall rankings, less than seven minutes down on the leader.

“It was a good stage for me, but really hard at almost 450 kilometers in length,” Benavides said. “It was a lost faster on average than yesterday with a lot more sand, but also rivers and canyons as before. It had rained overnight so it was wet in some places, and that changes the terrain a little, especially the soft sand. I rode a strong stage – I had a good pace and didn’t make too many mistakes, but I’m definitely ready to get some rest now and recharge my batteries for tomorrow.”

Spaniard Joan Barreda was fifth through the time gate and now occupies the same position in the overall standings.

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
A solid ride to sixth now sets Toby Price up nicely to attack Wednesday’s stage four. Photo: Rally Zone

Toby Price once again showed his experience on stage three by sticking to a fast but calculated pace. With the stage being as long and tiring as it was, a mistake could easily have a huge impact on an overall result, and as such Toby’s solid ride to sixth now sets him up nicely to attack Wednesday’s stage four.

“The weather today has been quite cold and overcast, so that makes a change here at the Dakar,” Price said. “The stage went well for me today, I kept my head down, pushed where I could, and tried to keep to a good pace for the whole day. I dropped down the order a little bit today, but that’s just the nature of the race. It’s only day three, so we’ve still got a long way to go yet.”

Tomorrow the fourth stage from this year’s Dakar Rally will have a start and finish at the Ha’Il bivouac. This special stage will have 425 kilometers and a liaison of 152 km. The weather forecast talks about the comeback of the sun. Sheer mountains of sand will appear in the first 100 kilometers. After that, there is tricky navigation on the sandy tracks leading back to Ha’Il. So sand dunes and sand tracks will dominate (36% each), leaving just 10% of dirt tracks and rocky sections (9%).

Photo of rally rider Ricky Brabec in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage three
The morning just got darker for Ricky Brabec with the American crashing out early in the stage.

Results (provisional): Dakar Rally 2023, stage 3
1 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:24:15
2 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:30:34
3 Mason Klein (KTM) 4:31:14
4 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 4:31:38
5 Joan Barreda (Honda) 4:35:44
6 Toby Price (KTM) 4:36:29

Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 3)
1 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 14:05:38
2 Mason Klein (KTM) 14:09:42
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 14:12:31
4 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 14:14:13
5 Joan Barreda (Honda) 14:16:15
6 Toby Price (KTM) 14:16:38

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