Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 1: Ricky Brabec wins in bikes; Carlos Sainz keeps Audi in front


Taking advantage of penalties to multiple competitors, Ricky Brabec won Stage 1 of the 2023 Dakar Rally to take the overall lead in the bikes category.

The Southern California native clocked a time of 4 hours, 14 minutes, 10 seconds aboard his No. 2 Monster Energy Honda CRF 450 Rally, beating Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Kevin Benavides of Argentina (4:14:29).

Daniel Sanders (fifth, 4:15:55) and Pablo Quintanilla (seventh, 4:16:17) initially finished ahead of Brabec, but each rider received 2-minute speeding penalties that knocked them off the podium.

“Yeah, we’re doing great,” Brabec said in an interview after the win. “We survived the first day. That was goal No. 2. Goal No. 1 was to get through the prologue not opening the day. I think we’re off to a good start for the rally. I’m happy. I had a good prologue, first day. Hoping to carry this into tomorrow and the next 13 days.

“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!

It’s the first stage win in two years for Brabec, who became the first American champion of the Dakar Rally in 2020. He won three stages and the prologue while finishing second in 2021.

HOW TO WATCH: Dakar Rally 2023 schedule on NBC Sports’ Peacock

“Today we encountered almost all of it,” Brabec posted on Instagram. “Sand, rocks, dunes, summits, animals, locals. It was great. Let’s push on for a new day.”

Heading into a critical second stage that will feature a special stage of closed tracks for 430 km that put a premium on handling, Brabec leads Benavides by 19 seconds. Australian Toby Price is third, 39 seconds behind. Joan Barreda Bort, who also suffered a speeding penalty, is fourth overall.

Californian Mason Klein of BAS world KTM finished sixth (4:14:49). Klein, who is making his second Dakar start after finishing ninth as a rookie, is 1 minute, 14 seconds behind Brabec.

“The navigation was super good,” said Klein, who rode cautiously after exceeding speed limits early in the stage. “I really enjoy this kind of riding. This is like what I have back home. … It was super good, and at least I know I can definitely win a stage in the future.”

Defending bikes winner Sam Sunderland, a two-time Dakar Rally winner, withdrew after crashing 52 kilometers into the special. Though conscious and fully mobile, the Brit was flown to Yanbu Hospital for further testing because of back pain.

In the cars category, Carlos Sainz kept Team Audi Sport at the front, taking the overall lead with a stage victory by 10 seconds over Sebastien Loeb. Sainz, a three-time Dakar winner, also leads the overall by 10 seconds over Loeb.

“Everything went smoothly except for a puncture near the start of the special, which also meant I was extra cautious the rest of the stage,” said Sainz, whose son, winning F1 Ferrari driver Carlos Jr., was on hand to watch the victory while following partly from a helicopter. “From then on, we had no problems, and the car worked like a charm. We’ll see what approach we take tomorrow.”

Prologue winner Mattias Ekstrom fell to 13th overall (15 minutes, 33 seconds off the lead) after fading from the lead to a 15th-place finish late in Stage 2.

In the T3 light prototype category, American Seth Quintero finished third in Stage 1, just 5 seconds ahead of Red Bull Off-Road Junior teammate Austin “A.J.” Jones.

“I think this year is a new Seth,” Quintero said. “I think we saw a very different and hungry Seth last year. All the stage wins were a lot of fun. Now I’ve kind of taken a step back to just try to be there at the finish line every day.”

NBC Sports’ daily 6:30 p.m. ET coverage on Peacock of the 2023 Dakar Rally will begin tonight.

NEXT: Stage 2 of the  2023 Dakar Rally will cover 590 kilometers (including 431 km against the clock in the special) from Sea Camp to AlUla. Navigating the dunes will be critical.

Here are the stage winners, the top three in each category and American notables after Stage 1:


Stage 1 winner: Carlos Sainz (ESP), Team Audi Sport, 3:28:55.

1. Carlos Sainz (ESP), Team Audi Sport, 3:28:55; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 3:29:05; 3. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Racing, 3:30:56.


Stage 1 winner: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 4:14:10.

1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 4:14:10; 2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 4:14:29; 3. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 4:14:49. U.S. notables: 6. Mason Klein, BAS world KTM, 4:15:24; 9. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 4:19:22; 32. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 4:44:34; 55. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 5:09:35; 80. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 5:36:16; 85. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 5:40:52; 87. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 5:43:41; 99. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 5:53:22; 116. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 6:21:37; 118. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 6:22:32; 132. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 7:40:42.


Stage 1 winner: Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 4:55:28.

1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 4:55:28; 2. Manuel Andujar (ARG), 7240 Team, 4:55:49; 3. Marcelo Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing Team, 5:08:20. U.S. notable: 15. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 5:09:35.

T3 Light prototype

Stage 1 winner: Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 3:57:40.

1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 3:57:40; 2. 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 3:59:29; 3. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:00:47. U.S. notables: 4. Austin “A.J.” Jones, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:01:12; 6. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:08:57.


Stage 1 winner: Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 4:11:58.

1. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 4:11:58; 2. Pau Navarro (ESP), FN Speed Team, 4:13:29; 3. Michal Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 4:13:49.


Stage 1 winner: Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology Team, 3:57:18.

1. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology Team, 9:43; 2. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga 4:02:19; 3. Mitchel Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy, 4:06:36.


PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge

CARRYING THE FLAG: U.S. drivers and riders in the 2023 Dakar Rally

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500