Led by defending SSV champ Austin Jones, U.S. contenders charge into 2023 Dakar Rally

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More than two dozen Americans will be racing in the 2023 Dakar Rally, including two of the three U.S. champions in the prestigious rally raid event.

Austin Jones will return after winning a T4 championship in the SSV category of the off-road endurance racing classic’s 45th edition.

This will be the fourth consecutive trip to Saudi Arabia for the Dakar Rally, which has a longer, more adventurous route that will cover nearly 8,000 kilometers this year.

HOW TO WATCH THE DAKAR RALLY: Nightly coverage on Peacock starting Jan. 1

ENTRY LIST: Click here for the list of competitors in the Dakar Rally

There are 14 stages (up two from 2022) and nearly 5,000 kilometers of “specials” (which involve racing against the clock) – the longest competitive distance since 2014. The grueling route will include four days in the Empty Quarter, the vast desert that will be explored with a marathon stage.

Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who became the first American to win a Dakar Rally championship in 2020 and finished second in ‘21, leads a stacked U.S. field in the bikes division.

Mason Klein (ninth last year) and Skyler Howes also should be in championship contention, and Petr Vlcek, Jacob Argubright, Kyle McCoy, Paul Neff, David Pearson, James Pearson, Morrison Hart and Lawrence Ace Nilson also are on the entry list as U.S. representatives.

Austin Jones (Marcin Kin/Red Bull Content Pool).

California native Seth Quintero will return in the lightweight prototype category after winning a record 12 stages (including 10 consecutive) in the 2022 Dakar Rally. In a new pairing of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and Can-Am, Quintero and Jones (who also goes by “A.J.”) will be T3 teammates racing Maverick X3s that are built by South Racing (which won the T4 championship with Jones last year).

American Mitch Guthrie also is racing for the Red Bull Junior Team (with U.S. co-driver/navigator Kellon Walch).

Supercross and motocross veteran Andrew Short, who finished eighth in bikes last year, will return in a new role this year as a navigator in the T4 division.

The Americans will face some new wrinkles in the 2023 Dakar Rally. The event will feature the debut of digital roadbooks in all categories, and stage winners will be granted time compensation for the first time, putting them at less of a disadvantage when starting the next stage.

The 2023 Dakar Rally will begin with an 11-kilometer special prologue Dec. 31 that will set the starting order for the opening stage.

Daily coverage of the Dakar Rally, including updates, interviews and feature, will be available at 6:30 p.m. ET on Peacock starting Jan. 1. NBC Sports digital platforms also will have Dakar coverage.

Dylan Ferrandis in concussion protocol after Houston Supercross accident, Tampa status undetermined

Ferrandis Houston accident
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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After suffering a frightening accident at Houston in the Monster Energy Supercross race, Dylan Ferrandis reports he is okay, but will be on concussion protocol and his status for Tampa this week is not yet determined.

Two laps into last week’s Main, Ferrandis was engaged in a battle with Ken Roczen for eighth place. Ferrandis landed on the back Roczen’s bike and was thrown, landing headfirst on the track. Ferrandis momentarily lost consciousness and the race was red flagged so he could be attended to by the Alpinestars medical team.

“I’m okay after my crash in the main event. I hit my head first and got knock[ed] out for some minutes,” Ferrandis posted in an Instagram story. “Everything else is fine and I am okay now fortunately. Will follow the concussion protocol and will see when I can ride again.”

Ferrandis regained consciousness, the medical crew fitted Ferrandis with a neck brace and he was able to stand and walk to the cart under his own power. Ferrandis was sitting up when he left the track with a member of the crew stabilizing his neck.

“It was an awesome ride [for Eli] and a good way to come back from last weekend,” said Jeremy Coker, Team Manager for Star Racing Yamaha at RacerXOnline.com. “It was also the lowest of lows. Unfortunately, it’s part of the sport, but to see one of your guys crash the way Dylan did and to see him lying there was pretty tough. Fortunately, when I got to him, he was able to open his eyes and looked at me and said my name, and it was a huge relief to see him stand up and walk away.”

Ferrandis was off to a strong start in 2023 with a worst finish of sixth at San Diego in the first three races. He entered Houston sixth in the standings, one point behind Jason Anderson.

Ferrandis’ teammate Eli Tomac went on to win the race.

Also riding for Star Racing Yamaha and making his 450cc Supercross debut, Justin Cooper advanced from 13th at the end of Lap 1 to finish seventh.