Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 2: Mason Klein’s bikes victory fuels American surge; Guthrie wins T3

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Americans continued their strong performance in the bikes category at the 2023 Dakar Rally as Mason Klein won Stage 2 to take the overall lead.

The Agua Dulce, California, native overcame a 2-minute speeding penalty to finish the 589-kilometer stage in 5 hours, 23 minutes and 4 seconds, more than a minute ahead of Sebastian Buhler (5:24:13). American Skyler Howes finished third (5:24:17).

With Ricky Brabec’s win in the opener, U.S. riders have won the first two stagse and now occupy three of the top seven overall positions in bikes with 12 stages remaining.

Klein, who is making only his second Dakar start, has a 1-minute, 41-second lead over two-time Dakar Rally winner Toby Price from Australia.

“Today I felt really good apart from the speed penalty I got again,” Klein said. “But other than that, it was super nice.”

After starting third and following others for much of the first 300 kilometers, Klein said he made his move after being playfully challenged by veteran riders Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides, who suggested he take a turn navigating at the point.

“In the beginning, my plan was just to cruise because I knew I couldn’t make up much time, and I didn’t want to get lost and lose a bunch of time,” Klein, 21, said. “I eventually caught up to Kevin and Ricky. Then I made the pass and left them. It was good. I got to do some of the work today, and it was nice. Also, they did so much work, I just felt like it was my turn. I couldn’t just let them navigate all day. So it was good.”

It was the first career stage win for Klein, who finished ninth last year at the Dakar Rally as the top rookie in the bikes category.

Klein had entered Monday’s special 44 seconds behind Stage 1 winner Brabec. Klein finished second in the opening stage on his BAS world KTM Racing Team 450 Rally Raid.

“The terrain was super good,” he said of his win. “The navigation was nice. The roadbook was good. The thing is, with the speed, like the top speeds in the speed zones, it’s all so much for me. It’s so much for my brain. Sometimes, I just blank. I’ll be paying attention to the speed zone and it will say, ‘Go, no turns.’ All you have to do is stay straight and follow this course. I have to almost stop, and I forget what I’m doing. I don’t know if it’s about experience. It’s pretty tough.”

Howes said the stage was surprising because the terrain was much rougher than projected.

“It was a super, super challenging day, really hard on the body and machine,” said Howes, who rides a Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory. “Today was extremely rocky. The whole thing was stones. Really difficult on the body and on the machine, too. Tires took a huge beating today.

“The first part of the special was actually incredibly beautiful. We went through these huge canyons with big palm trees. It was wet, overcast, raining. Unreal. Super, super fun. But man, long day and hard on the body. It’s going to be like this the rest of the rally, so we need to play it smart and keep it going day by day.”

Brabec, who became the first American champion of the Dakar Rally when he won the bikes class in 2020, is ranked sixth overall, 4 minutes and 21 seconds behind Klein and 50 seconds ahead of Howes in seventh.

After winning the first stage on his Monster Energy Honda CRF 450 Rally, Brabec finished 15th in the second stage, 5 minutes and 35 seconds off Klein’s winning time.

“It wasn’t super tough,” Brabec said. “The navigation was a lot. The stage description was 27 percent rocks, but I think it was like 97 percent rocks. But we did a good job. Did the best we could, stayed up front all day.

“The last special was a little bit difficult. Not navigation-wise, but just the head was a little bit fried. The body is a little bit tired just trying to stay up front all day and not lose too much time. I’m happy we didn’t make any big mistakes. It’s only Day 2. Hopefully, tomorrow we can make a big push, because tomorrow’s supposedly supposed to be a little bit tricky.”

In the cars category, defending Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah won the special, nipping Erik Van Loon by 14 seconds. Three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz finished third, maintaining his overall lead by two minutes, 12 seconds over Al-Attiyah.

“It was absolutely the time to attack and drive a good stage,” Al-Attiyah said. “It was not an easy day because I am sure a lot of problems will happen today because there were a lot of rocks, and the navigation wasn’t easy. I’m really quite happy to make day two a good stage. We had one flat tire, one puncture at the beginning, but after that we tried to be really careful in the stony places. In the sand, we pushed, and I’m quite happy. I was thinking the start of the race would be very easy, but it was really tricky. Well done to the organizers”.

In T3 light prototypes, American Mitch Guthrie beat overall leader Francisco Lopez Contardo to take Stage 2.

Guthrie moved into fourth overall by winning on navigator Kellon Walch’s birthday.

“Kellon did great today with navigation, and the car was awesome,” Guthrie said.

Seth Quintero, Guthrie’s Red Bull Off-Road Junior teammate, finished third, and Austin “A.J.” Jones was fifth in the stage. Contardo leads Quintero by just under 9 minutes overall.

“It was a lot rougher than I expected,” Quintero said after the second stage. “I thought we were going to be out there for 3 to 4 hours, but we were out there for almost 7 hours, so it was a long day, but I had a lot of fun, and I love these long stages. We had a pretty clean day today. I had two flats before 100 kilometers, so I put it in cruise control to get it to the finishing line. It’s a long, long race and there’s a long way to go.

“The rocks weren’t that bad. We just got unlucky with two little slow leaks. It was a bummer to deal with that. We felt them going flat about thirty kilometers each tire. It is what it is. I know we had a really good pace at the beginning. We caught the leader, and we were going to take it easy and just follow him. But we kind of just got unlucky. Hopefully tomorrow our luck turns around, and we’ll have a good day”.

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

NEXT: Stage 3 of the  2023 Dakar Rally will cover 669 kilometers (including 447 km against the clock in the special) from AlUla to Ha’il, beginning with a 50-kilometer stretch that some have described as the rally’s most beautiful start. A succession of canyons will be critical to navigation.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 2 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:


Car

Stage 2 winner: Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) Toyota Gazoo Racing, 5:13:38.

1. Carlos Sainz (ESP), Team Audi Sport, 8:34:26; 2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 8:36:38; 3. Mathieu Serradori (FRA), Century Racing Factory Team, 8:59:21.

Bike

Stage 2 winner: Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM, 5:23:04.

1. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM, 9:38:28; 2. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 9:40:09; 3. Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), Monster Energy JB Team, 9:40:31. U.S. notables: 6. Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49; 7. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 9:43:39; 30. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 10:33:00; 46. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 11:34:16; 67. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 12:37:06; 78. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 12:49:30; 81. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 13:00:35; 83. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 13:02:47; 107. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 14:14:25; 109. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 14:22:39; 126. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 18:05:59.

Quad

Stage 2 winner: Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 6:21:06.

1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 11:16:34; 2. Manuel Andujar (ARG), 7240 Team, 11:24:02; 3.Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 11:34:16.

T3 light prototype

Stage 2 winner: Mitch Guthrie (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 5:38:31.

1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 9:37:36; 2. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 9:46:19; 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 9:46:29. U.S. notables: 4. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 9:47:28; 5. Austin “A.J.” Jones, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 9:53:58.

T4 SSV

Stage 2 winner: Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 5:45:31.

1. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 10:07:18; 2. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 10:13:02; 3. Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli (ARG) South Racing Can-Am, 10:14:15.

Truck 

Stage 2 winner: Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 5:38:18

1. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 9:40:37; 2. Janus Van Kasteren (NLD), Boss Machinter Team De Rooy Iveco, 9:52:54; 3. Jaroslav Valtr (CZE), Tatra Bucgyra ZM Racing, 9:56:41.


PAST RECAPS

STAGE 1: Ricky Brabec opens with victory; Carlos Sainz keeps Audi on top

PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge

CARRYING THE FLAGU.S. drivers and riders in the 2023 Dakar Rally

Dylan Ferrandis in concussion protocol after Houston; uncertain for Tampa Supercross

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 said he is OK 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.