2023 Dakar Rally: Rain shortens Stage 3

In Greek mythology, crossing the River Styx takes the dead to the underworld. In Roman history and idioms, crossing the Rubicon River was to go past a point of no return. In the 2023 Dakar Rally, crossing the storm-generated river on the way to Ha’il will make racers very wet, if not stuck entirely. Mother Nature has enjoyed stranding rally raiders in bodies of water over the past six months…

Stage #3 was originally a 477-kilometre run from Al-‘Ula to Ha’il, but increasing rain made it impossible for helicopters to tend to competitors. Multiple racers were also snagged by a riverbed that filled to extraordinary lengths. Consequently, the final 100 kilometres were lopped off and the leg ended after 377 km for the FIA classes, while FIM riders had their times recorded between said point and the second checkpoint at KM 35. Only forty-three riders reached the new finish while nine cars did so. The Dakar Classic was also halted due to the weather.

After a disastrous Stage #2 for the Prodrive Hunters, Guerlain Chicherit and Orlando Terranova rebounded by finishing 1–2 in T1. Chicherit scored his first stage victory since Stage #8 in 2013 as his time of 3:22:59 at the moment of stoppage was five minutes and four seconds ahead of Terranova.

“This victory is good because our morale was down,” said Chicherit. “We are so far away (in the overall) that, without blaming them, we can just hope that the others also have their troubles. If it’s like this every day, why can’t we get back into the top ten? In the top five?”

Although Chicherit and Terranova will be more than pleased with their results, fellow Hunter and Terranova’s Bahrain Raid Xtreme team-mate Sébastien Loeb suffered yet another failure after twenty-six kilometres and was relegated to thirty-second. Vaidotas Žala, a customer Hunter like Chicherit, had a better day in thirteenth.

Carlos Sainz, who led the Cars overall after winning Stage #1 and notching a podium in the second, was also plagued by misfortune when his Audi experienced a mechanical issue in the left-rear wheel well. This resulted in a finish of thirty-ninth, which coupled with Nasser Al-Attiyah‘s fifth-place run promoted the latter to the top of the general classification.

Austin Jones won the T3 class over Seth Quintero in a battle of Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team members by forty-four seconds. Their allies at the Can-Am Factory Team Francisco López Contardo and Cristina Gutiérrez were not as lucky as they were trapped by the river and had to be pulled out by trucks competing in the T5 class.

Of the Bikes who went the “full” distance, Daniel Sanders led Americans Skyler Howes and Mason Klein for the RallyGP win, beating both by 6:19 and 6:59, respectively. Howes and Klein had 5:52 and 3:14 removed from their final times as part of a new “Automatic Bonus” system to help the first three riders to begin a stage, who at a disadvantage since they are navigating a route not already broken in by others. Sebastian Bühler, who joined Howes and Klein on the previous leg’s podium, got a 2:33 bonus but finished twenty-second.

Frontrunner Ricky Brabec‘s Dakar came to an end when he crashed after 274 kilometres, suffering a neck pain that necessitated an airlift to hospital in Ha’il, where he will remain under observation but did not sustain any serious injuries. The Stage #1 Bike winner is the second major entry in the category to exit due to a crash after defending champion Sam Sunderland was eliminated in the same leg.

“I want to leave a special word to our rider Ricky Brabec, who had to leave the rally after a crash,” said Monster Monster Energy Honda Rally Team manager Ruben Faria. “Monster Energy Honda Team is proud of him and thankful for all his efforts. He is a great rider, for sure one of the best, and a good person, so we wish him a full and speedy recovery.”