Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 4: Late failure costs Mason Klein; Skyler Howes stays on podium

Dakar 2023 Stage 4
FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images
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It was another up-and-down day for American riders who weathered more adversity in Stage 4 of the 2023 Dakar Rally.

Mason Klein was cruising toward a stage victory in the bikes category when his fuel pump intake failed 20 kilometers from the finish of the 574-kilometer loop stage around Ha’il in Saudi Arabia.

He finished the fourth stage in 11th and fell more than 10 minutes behind overall leader Daniel Sanders after Klein had entered second overall, 4 minutes off first place.

“The stage was really nice; everything was going really well,” said the Southern California native, who fell to sixth in the overall standings. “I got to open a good amount, so that was really nice. I got some bonus time, which is probably going to really help me.

“It’s pretty disappointing because the day was going so well, but at least we made it here. Tomorrow, maybe I’ll try and make up some time again, I guess. It’s pretty hard. You can’t really make up time. You just lose it.”

Klein said in an Instagram post that water got in his fuel line because he was the first rider to the refuel station and “when you’re the first one there, that’s what happens. You get all the water.”

In the Dakar Rally, competitors make their own repairs, so Klein, 21, lost precious time while scrambling into the role of makeshift mechanic in only his second start in the rally raid classic. Klein said he struggled to reattach a skid plate bolt and “was getting very stressed” while estimating he lost at least 5 minutes on the repair.

“I have a bunch of tools with me, so I basically ran out in the dunes, got my seat off, took out the tools, dropped it the ground, undid a couple of clips, undid three bolts, then I poured it back in,” Klein said. “It didn’t go that smoothly though, because I couldn’t make the bike stand up until I had some gas in the tank again, so the whole time I had to balance the bike while taking everything off. You can’t get the skid plate off when it’s just laying on the ground. It’s just difficult.”

But it wasn’t all bad news for American riders (whose ranks were thinned Tuesday by the withdrawal of past champion and 2023 title contender Ricky Brabec).

Skyler Howes improved from fourth to second overall (3 minutes 33 seconds behind Sanders) after his second consecutive podium finish on his Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory. The St. George, Utah, native finished third Wednesday, 1 minute and 5 seconds behind Stage 4 winner Joan Barradea Bort. Pablo Quintanilla was second.

But the stage still was a slog for Howes, who flipped over the handlebars a couple of times on soft dunes in the morning.

He was leading after the refuel, but then had “a really big crash” when he apparently clipped a rock while navigating a tricky section where water covered most of the tones. Howes landed on his back and had the wind knocked out of him, but he was OK after overall leader Sanders stopped to check on him.

“(The imapct) deployed my airbag, which helped quite a bit,” Howes said. “From that point, I had no motivation and was riding like a zombie. Toward the end, I snapped back into it, started pushing heavy with (Sanders) to the finish.”

In a battle of Frenchmen in the cars division, Sebastien Loeb edged Stephane Peterhansel by 13 seconds to win the fourth stage. Carlos Sainz rebounded with a fourth place after losing the lead in Stage 3.

Loeb hung on for the victory despite having no power steering the final 20 kilometers.

“We tried to push really hard on this stage,” Loeb said. “We went on full attack all the time. We had to finish the stage very slowly (without power steering). I couldn’t keep the car on the tracks. We spun out at one point because I couldn’t turn the steering wheel.”

AUTO-MOTO-RALLY-DAKAR-STAGE4
Sebastien Loeb is congratulated at the bivouac after winning the fourth stage of the 2023 Dakar Rally (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images).

Dakar legend Peterhansel just missed out on his 50th career stage win in cars. “It was perfect conditions,” he said. “If we wanted to get a good time, we had to push and take a lot of impacts on the car as well as the body. It’s always a surprise just how hard it is inside the car. It’s like fighting for four hours.”

Defending Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah built his overall lead to more than 18 minutes with a fourth in Stage 4. Yazeed Al Rajhi is second overall, followed by the Team Audi electric hybrids of Peterhansel (18 minutes, 18 seconds behind) and Sainz (32:55).

“A long stage, not easy and very tough,” Al-Attiyah said. “There was a lot of camel grass and off-piste. It wasn’t easy. We had one flat tire and then we tried to push. We’ve been really very fast. We’ve made no mistakes at all, and Mathieu navigated well. We are quite happy. The race is really changing every day, but we are trying to keep our strategy and our pace every day. The Audi is fast in the sand, but we are quite happy to finish day four.”

In T3 light prototype, American Mitch Guthrie took the overall lead with his second stage victory. The Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team driver is 89 seconds ahead of Guillaume De Mevius. Red Bull teammate and fellow American Austin A.J. Jones, who won the third stage, finished third and is third overall.

“It was a really good stage for us,” Guthrie said. “It was a long stage. I think today was our first real taste of what the dunes are going to be like here in Saudi Arabia. The previous days we’ve had a lot of rocks, but today it was sand pretty much most of the time.

“It was definitely challenging. It took us up a lot of big dunes, so me and Kellon, my co-pilot, had to work together really well because in many areas you had to find your way around or take some steep climbs to get to the other side. Overall, I’m really happy.”

Said Jones: “Long day, tough day, but we’re happy to be here for sure. It was a tough one”

After entering with the overall lead, California native Seth Quintero struggled to 10th, finishing nearly 90 minutes behind his teammate Guthrie. In an Instagram post, Quintero chronicled the events of his disastrous stage: the studs of his left-rear tire were sheared off; power steering failed; and he ran out of fuel twice.

Quintero fell to fourth overall, more than an hour and 21 minutes behind Guthrie.

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

NEXT: Stage 5 of the  2023 Dakar Rally will cover 646 kilometers (including 375 km against the clock in the special) in another loop stage around the Saudi capital of off-road racing. The terrain will feature vast expanses interrupted by dunes.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 4 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:


Car

Stage 4 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 4:11:34.

General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 16:34:13; 2. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Racing, 16:52:31; 3. Stephane Peterhansel (FRA), Team Audi Sport, 16:53:05.

Bike

Stage 4 winner: Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), Monster Energy JB Team, 4:28:18.

General rankings: 1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, 18:40:03; 2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 18:43:36; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 18:44:08. U.S. notables: 6. Mason Klein, BAS world KTM Racing Team, 18:50:08; 28. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 21:24:45; 50. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 24:13:19; 63. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 24:50:44; 65. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 25:03:46; 76. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 26:11:00; 83. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 26:55:19; 97. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 29:26:50; 107. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 32:26:50; 111. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 35:59:40). Withdrew: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49.

Quad

Stage 4 winner: Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 5:52:17.

General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 22:49:35; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 23:36:39; 3. Manuel Andujar, 7240 Team, 23:57:47; U.S. notable: 5. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 24:13:19.

T3 light prototype

Stage 4 winner: Mitch Guthrie (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 5:01:55.

General rankings: 1. Mitch Guthrie (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 18:59:47; 2. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 19:01:16. 3. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 19:11:18. 4. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 20:21:33

T4 SSV

Stage 4 winner: Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 5:18:41.

General rankings: 1. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 20:05:55; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 20:19:59; 3. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 20:30:52.

Truck 

Stage 4 winner: Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 5:10:23.

1. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 19:29:21; 2. Martin Vandenbrink (NLD), Eurol team De Rooy Iveco, 19:56:43; 3. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 20:08:58.


PAST RECAPS

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

STAGE 2: Mason Klein continues U.S. surge in bikes

STAGE 3: Brabec is eliminated by crash as inclement weather shortens stage

PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge

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

IndyCar Preseason, Day 2: Helio Castroneves addresses racing future, says 2023 is ‘huge’

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Entering what could be the final season of his NTT IndyCar Series career, there is one race that Helio Castroneves of course has circled as key to the future.

And it surely could cinch his plans with another record-breaking win.

“It’s obviously the big one – it’s Indianapolis 500,” the four-time Indy 500 winner said during preseason media interviews last week. “That’s the one that we feel that we have the same car. We have all our bets onto that. However, I’m not going to give up on the other ones, either. I feel that we have as much of a chance as anybody in some places that I feel comfortable. Finishing in the top 12 (in points) would be a great goal.

“However, we want to be able to have a podium. We want to be able to show what we can get, and we can.”

A MAN IN FULL: Helio Castroneves as the businessman and budding team owner

Castroneves signed a one-year deal to return to Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 06 Dallara-Honda after finishing 18th in the 2022 standings, a career worst for the Brazilian over a full year in IndyCar. Castroneves managed a season-best seventh in the Indy 500 (recovering from a crash in testing) and only two other top 10s in 17 starts.

It marked the first time since Castroneves entered the CART ChampCar Series in 1998 that he failed to finishi on the podium during a full-time season (he competed part time in 2018-20 while running full time in IMSA).

Though he dodged questions about how critical results would be to keeping his seat beyond 2023, Castroneves concedes it’s a “huge” season for him. MSR has reshuffled the lineup with new “data people” and a new engineer for Castroneves, who will turn 48 in May. Though MSR already was facing challenges last season in adding a second full-time car along with Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, the expectations are high for a swift turnaround.

Helio Castroneves at The Thermal Club test (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment).

“Everyone understands when you’re going through, even if it’s one year, people think it’s a long time, but hey, we’re talking about teams that’s been together for a long, long time, years of experience and communication and everybody is in sync,” said Castroneves, who made six starts (including his fourth Indy 500 win) for MSR in 2021.

“Even though for us we did 2021, all those people were part-timers, and we have to start all over again. That was the first time that we had two cars in the team. There was a lot of dynamics changing. Now we are continuing to move forward. It’s important for us to be part of this process, be patient. Yeah, I can’t wait when things start to connect so we can show at the racetrack.”

Beyond coming off a dismal year and racing into his late 40s against drivers who are more than 20 years his junior, the stakes also are high for Castroneves because there’s a high-profile and obvious candidate to supplant him in 2024.

Tom Blomqvist, who teamed with Castroneves to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the second consecutive season, has drawn high praise for his championship-level performance in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s premier prototype category. He also has a keen interest in racing IndyCar and tested for MSR last October.

It’s led to some speculation that MSR could broker a trade between its IndyCar and IMSA teams that could swap Blomqvist for Castroneves next year.

AUTO: JAN 29 IMSA Rolex 24 Daytona
Helio Castroneves celebrates after being part of the overall winning team in the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the third consecutive year (David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).

“First of all, it’s too early to say,” Castroneves said. “Second, I don’t want anything more than great things for this team. This team is incredible. They already stamped that they’re not just a small team. They stamped that they’re an incredible team. That things amazing (are) about to happen in the future.

“Tom, come on, the kid is a superstar. He’s really quick. He’s doing an amazing job. Last year he did a great job; this year continued doing it. Let’s see. Everything happens and falls natural. But as of right now, it’s too early in the season to predict and think what’s going to happen. Our goal is to have a phenomenal result with MSR so that we can show what this team is capable.”

Castroneves already has resurrected his IndyCar career once (it seemed he was done as a full-time driver after 2017 until his Brickyard triumph), and the “Dancing With The Stars” winner seems ageless, so it’s hard to bet against him or his will to keep driving – especially after three consecutive Rolex 24 victories.

“Do you think I’m thinking retiring right now?” Castroneves said while cracking a smile. “There is no … there isn’t a thought of that. It has to feel natural. I can’t force myself. I can’t put a number or date that I can say this is it. As of right now, I am enjoying very much what I’m doing. I’m about to start a great season with IndyCar, and my mind is only thinking about that. I’m just going to continue working and get that result that I really want, that I know I’m capable and I know what the team is capable. Whatever happens in the future remains to be seen.”

In the short-term, he is taking a positive outlook that he and Pagenaud can improve on MSR’s struggles with tire wear last season. Though his speeds were average in preseason testing at The Thermal Club (Castroneves was 18th fastest on the second day), Castroneves believes the alliance with Andretti Autosport will bear more results in 2023.

2023 Gold Meets Golden 10th Anniversary Year Event - Arrivals
After last week’s preseason test at The Thermal Club, Helio Castroneves attended the 2023 Gold Meets Golden 10th Anniversary Year Event at Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills, California (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic).

“You’re always looking for improvement,” he said. “The good news is we finished 18th last year in the championship. That’s not a place that we want to be. However, we feel there was some areas that we felt we could have better results, but racing is unpredictable, as always. But we’re only looking forward, and we feel we’re going to have a much better season. The expectation is obviously always to do well, but also we understand the possibility of things not going according to the plan.

“But I feel the plan is that. It takes some time to collect some of the informations that we want, our alliances with Andretti Autosport also is still very strong. They also know that they need to improve. It’s not only in our organization. We still keep pushing each other so that we can have a better result like we had or that Andretti had in the past. They have their own engineers, their own resources, they translate it to us, and we’re looking forward to having a much better season, and let’s hope for the best.”

A roundup of other nuggets from the second day of IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities Feb. 1 at the Palm Springs Convention Center:


With Team Penske having announced a sponsor extension with Verizon, the future seems secure for defending series champion Will Power (who had signed a long-term extension in 2021) after a tumultuous offseason for the No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet driver. Power fractured ribs in a go-karting crash (but was able to heal quickly) and also had to withdraw from his Rolex 24 debut last month after his wife, Liz, was hospitalized.

Will Power confirmed she was back home and “much better than (mid-January), but I think we’ll know for sure in five weeks whether her blood stays sterile. She’s improved significantly from (being) in pretty bad shape.”


The elimination of double points for the Indy 500 could change the calculus of this season’s championship race, but Josef Newgarden already had designs on a major alteration. The two-time series champion, who has finished runner-up in three consecutive seasons, said his 2023 goal is to end IndyCar’s 17-year streak of determining the champion in the season finale.

“It gnaws at me for sure,” the Team Penske star, who had a series-high five wins to Power’s one in 2022, said of his recent misses to add a third title. “It’s annoying, there’s no doubt. How could you not be frustrated by it? I try and take the frustration and just put it into motivation. How are we going to build a bigger (points) gap where that’s not even possible? I don’t even want to be messing with it at the end of the year. In an ideal world, if we get to the end of a season where we don’t have to mess with the gap, if we can just get that out of the way, that would be ideal. That’s where my mindset is at, how do we get to that place where it’s not even on the table. It’s just done.

“I’m not arrogant enough to believe that that’s easy. It seems near impossible these days to do that. I think that’s valid. It’s very difficult to do that. I understand that. But I still want to find a way where we can get to a place where we don’t have to mess with it. I do not think that will be easy whatsoever, but we need to figure out how to do that. I am so positive, when we get a year where we get good timing paired with great speed and decisions, it will be a great year. It will be really great. Much better than what we had last year.”


The announcement of Conor Daly attempting to make his Daytona 500 debut (along with other Cup races for TMT) had been foreshadowed last week by the Ed Carpenter Racing driver. Unlike Castroneves, who had mulled racing Daytona with the same team, Daly said he can’t be selective about his opportunities. “I chatted with a young man by the name of Helio Castroneves earlier, and I think for him an opportunity like that could probably come about really anytime,” Daly said. “But for me, I don’t know if an opportunity like that would come again. I have done a lot in my life by (saying) ‘You know what, if there is a chance to do it, might as well do it.’ So who knows what might happen. But if there is a chance, I feel like I can’t not do it, or not try to do it at least.”

Daly finished 34th at the Roval in his Cup debut last year with the team and also has starts in the Xfinity and truck series. “The Cup car isn’t as physical to drive, but it’s still hot and still gets the heart going,” he said. “So, yeah, it was a great experience to be able to do. Not the smoothest experience, I will say, but really cool to get to do that and be a part of the NASCAR Cup Series and hopefully obviously shine some light on the IndyCar Series as well. I think we deserve more attention than we have got in the past. I hope we continue to get more in the future. Obviously people still want to do these races in this series that we’re a part of. Kyle Larson is coming to do the Indy 500. Everyone wants to see that.”


Though Jimmie Johnson has admitted he “never found the knife’s edge” during his two-year stint in IndyCar, Scott Dixon said he’ll be missed as a teammate. “I think anybody that knows Jimmie well, he’s a great person,” Dixon said. “He’s a fun guy to hang out with. I think what he brought to the team, whether it was on the sponsor side to his competitiveness and competition side and info, not just information but kind of his history of being so successful I think really helped with the team.

“For me it was probably more so on just the friendship side of hanging out with him. I think that was in Nashville where he was kind of talking about maybe not coming back, but I was like, ‘Come on, man, you’ve got to make sure you can get the deal together and come back.’ Obviously we can see that he’s moved on to different pastures, and a lot of exciting stuff for him that’s coming up.”

Dixon still believes Johnson could return for the Indy 500 but probably not until next year with NASCAR and Le Mans on his plate for 2023. “Maybe he’s already punted until next year, I don’t know,” Dixon said. “But he wants to do (the Indy 500 again). It’s just timing. It’s very difficult, and especially with the Garage 56 entry and all that kind of stuff, there’s a lot going on, especially around that period of time.”