Rallye

Ricky Brabec Kicks Off 2023 Dakar with Stage Win

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Photo of 2023 Dakar rally rider Ricky Brabec
There is a long way still to go but Ricky Brabec was happy to get his first stage win of 2023 under his belt. Photo: Rally Zone

Stage one of the 2023 Dakar Rally saw Ricky Brabec take the win ahead of Kevin Benavides and Mason Klein on a day where all team riders were in the spotlight.

Australian’s Toby Price and Daniel Sanders faired well with a strong start with Price finishing the stage fifth and Sanders sixth. It was a shocker for defending champion Sam Sunderland with the Brit crashing just 52 kilometers into stage one. Leading the special briefly before the incident, Sunderland was airlifted to hospital in Yanbu where he was diagnosed with a broken shoulder blade.

“Goal number one was not to open the stage,” Brabec said after his stage win. “I feel quite well and confident after today, but I will just try to go day by day, keep pace and stay in the Top 10. It’s going to be hard to be out of the lead – like we saw today – but we have to see how it goes until the rest day. Today was fairly simple, no stress, it was a great day!

Second placed Kevin Benavides who had posted the fifth-quickest time on the prologue attacked stage one right away from his 24th place start position. Placing eighth at the waypoint at kilometer 37, Benavides got his head down and steadily moved up through the order to ultimately finish in second place, a mere 44 seconds down on Brabec.

Photo of 2023 Dakar rally rider Sam Sunderland
Defending Champion Sam Sunderland couldn’t have gotten his title defense off to a worse start. The Brit crashed out 52 Kilometers into the stage. Photo: Rally Zone

“I had a good day today – it’s always encouraging to start the rally with a strong result,” The 2021 Dakar winner said. “It felt like a very long day, but I think every day leading up to the rest day will be similar. I’m happy with my result, I came second, but less than a minute or so behind the stage winner. It doesn’t give me the best start position for tomorrow, but I’ll aim to chase down the guy ahead. Overall, I’m happy to get the rally underway and looking forward to the rest of the race.”

Following on from Saturday’s short 13-kilometer prologue, where Toby Price posted the fastest time to finish in first place, the Australian turned his attention to the event’s 603-kilometer opening stage. Testing competitors right from the off, the 368-kilometer timed special comprised a challenging mix of terrain, made up predominantly of gravels tracks, but with some sand and dunes thrown in to give riders a true taste of conditions at this 2023 event.

Placing fifth on the stage, Price was pleased with how his race got underway. After spotting the fallen Sam Sunderland early in the special, Price decided to aim for a solid, safe finish to the stage. Despite his care, the Aussie was still able to bring it home inside the top five and will enjoy a strong start position for Monday’s stage two.

Photo of 2023 Dakar rally rider Toby Price
Duel winner Toby Price stopped to help Sam Sunderland but was still awarded fifth for the stage and is now third overall. Photo: Rally Zone

“Stage one has gone ok for me,” Price said. “I saw Sam (Sunderland) had crashed out at around kilometer 70, and it’s never good to see one of your mates go down like that. After that, I just focused on my roadbook and made sure I didn’t make any big mistakes on the way to the finish. It’s a long race and we have a very long way to go. My goal right now is to say safe and consistent.”

He may have been away from racing for a while but Daniel Sanders’ performance gave everyone a pleasant reminder of just how talented the hard-charging Aussie really is. After placing second on yesterday’s Prologue – allowing him to choose his starting position for stage one – Sanders set off as the 25th rider and quickly settled into a fast and consistent pace. Confidently reaching each waypoint among the leaders, Daniel came home in sixth and now lies a provisional fifth in the overall classification.

“It’s been a long old year since I’ve raced and it was great to be back out there today,” Sanders said. “Early on I caught up to Kevin Benavides and for most of the stage we just rode together, clicking off the kilometers. I really enjoyed the terrain. It was my first proper stage on the new generation bike, so everything was quite new for me today and it was great to get a decent stage result in early. I’m so pumped to be back here at the Dakar and I’m looking forward to taking each day as it comes.”

Tomorrow the second stage from this year’s Dakar Rally will leave the Sea Camp in the direction of Al-Ula. This special stage will have 430 kilometers of closed tracks demanding great handling skills, so riders will get mainly dirt tracks (59%), stones (26%) and just a little taste of sand (14% sand tracks and one percent of dunes). Besides this competitive section, there is also another 159 kilometers of liaison. Navigation will be key as participants reach the splendid canyons and beautiful landscapes near the finish. According to the ASO organisation, the stage will be decided on the dunes, with some of the majestic Nabataean temples visible on the landscape.

Photo of 2023 Dakar rally rider Daniel Sanders
Daniel Sanders admitted to being happy to be back in the race and after finishing sixth on stage one is looking forward to taking each day as it comes. Photo: Rally Zone

2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1 Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:31:10
2 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:31:54
3 Mason Klein (KTM) 3:31:54
4 Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:32:20
5 Toby Price (KTM) 3:32:59
6 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:33:00

Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 1)
1 Ricky Brabec (Honda) 4:14:10
2 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 4:14:29
3 Toby Price (KTM) 4:14:49
4 Joan Barreda (Honda) 4:14:55
5 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:14:55
6 Mason Klein (KTM) 4:15:24

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