Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 6: Peterhansel, Sainz crash on a devastating day for Team Audi

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A Dakar Rally legend was eliminated during a crash-marred Friday that effectively knocked out Team Audi in Stage 6 of the 2023 event.

Stephane Peterhansel, the 14-time champion who had been running second though five stages, crashed at the 200-kilometer mark and had to abandon his No. 204 RS Q e-tron E2. The Frenchman was OK, but his co-driver Edouard Boulanger was transported to a local hospital for further examination after the Dakar Rally medical team found him suffering from back pain.

In a devastating turn of events for the Audis, teammate Carlos Sainz closely was following Peterhansel and wrecked in the same spot. The Spaniard lost massive time trying to repair the car and is out of contention for his fourth Dakar Rally championship.

Peterhansel said he briefly was knocked out after the crash.

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Stephane Peterhansel speaks with Dakar Rally medical staff after a crash during Stage 6 (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images).

“I have no memory of having jumped the dune,” he said. “I have no memory of switching off the car. When I came around, Edouard was not in the car. He was lying in front of it. There you go, it’s the danger of off-piste. We fell into that trap. We had a fast pace because we were catching cars in the dunes. Feeling really good. We wanted to make up some time on (leader) Nasser (Al-Attiyah) but too fast.”

Said Sainz: “Stephane caught up with us right before the checkpoint. I was right behind him following close. The next thing I saw was his car flying and then me flying after him and landing. We’ve broken the suspension, and Edouard has damaged his back.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if Sainz would be able to continue, but the three-time champion assuredly has no shot at the overall.

Audi’s last remaining hope is Mattias Ekstrom, who was in fifth overall (1:46:55 behind Al-Attiyah) after a sixth in Stage 6.

The crashes marked the latest twists in an eventful Dakar Rally for Audi, which rolled out its new electric hybrid in last year’s event.

After struggling in its 2022 debut, the RS Q e-tron E2 seemed to have turned the corner this year after dominating the prologue and winning two of the first five stages. Audis also were granted an unusual power advantage by an FIA rule change after Stage 4.

That advantage angered defending car champion Nasser Al-Attiyah, who sarcastically thanked the FIA for “killing the race.”

But now it seems the race indeed could be over — in Al-Attiyah’s favor.

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Team Audi drivers Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz commiserate after crashing during Stage 6 (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images).

Benefiting from the Audis’ misfortune, the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver won his second consecutive stage Friday and widened his overall lead to more than an hour with eight stages remaining.

Before the shunt that knocked him out of his 35th Dakar Rally, Peterhansel had been in second overall, trailing Al-Attiyah by 22 minutes, 36 seconds.

The biggest threat now to Al-Attiyah winning a fifth Dakar title is rally legend Sebastien Loeb, who finished second in Stage 6 but still is nearly two hours behind the over leader after an earlier crash.

“It was a very tough stage, not easy,” Al-Attiyah said after winning Friday by 3 minutes, 29 seconds. “We really pushed a lot, but for the last 40 kilometers, we broke the steering pump, so we didn’t have any steering. We had a lot of oil coming out, but we’ll try to repair it now and then we’ll go to Riyadh.”

Loeb, whose car also benefited from the 11-horsepower gain by the FIA rule change, is ranked sixth overall for Bahrain Raid Xtreme.

“It was a clean stage for us,” Loeb said. “We lost a little bit of time on some waypoints, but not too much, just like 2 or 3 minutes. When you see what happened on the stage, I think in the end that we did a good stage with second time overall. It was better than the previous ones and I think we’ve made a good step in the general rankings, so that’s not too bad.

“We suffered a lot thse last few days with different problems every day. Things seem to be turning. Others suffered today. We managed a good leap in the overall, so it’s pretty good.”

In the bikes category, Skyler Howes increased his overall lead with a second place in Stage 6, 56 seconds behind winner (and Husqvarna Facory Racing teammate) Luciano Benavides. The St. George, Utah, native leads two-time Dakar champion Toby Price by 3 minutes, 31 seconds overall.

“The only thing on my mind today was to go as fast as possible,” Howes said. ” As soon as we hit the dunes, we were going in a super good direction, so you can kind of jump them. It was a really fun stage and the dunes were wet still, so you got a lot of traction through them. They were really consistent too. A lot of the times you could jump them. I got caught out a couple of times and jumped into some pretty big compressions, so that slowed me down a bit

“It was a really fun special with a lot of dunes, but they were really nice to ride and the tracks in between were really fun. The wetter sand helps get more traction, but it is more difficult when you have lots of lines in front of you because they leave deep ruts so it’s very easy to get crossed up. You more or less have to choose your own line and things like this. Otherwise, it’s nice to have wet dirt. There will be a lot of time on the seat on the two next days and on link routes to get to the next bivouacs. But I’ll be using the same mentality as always, just doing the best I can every single day,”

Mason Klein fell to seventh overall after the American finished 12th in the stage.

“It was a really difficult day for me,” said Klein, a 21-year-old making his second Dakar Rally start. “It was cold, and I struggled in the dunes. I fell twice. It’s the first time I’ve fallen since the start of the rally. It hurt bad. This special was horrible. From now on, I’m going to try and do my best taking it as easy as possible.”

After Stage 6 had ended, the Dakar Rally announced the cancellation of the Stage 7 special for bikes because of worsening weather and tired riders. While bikes and quads will head directly to Al Duwadimi on the road section Saturday, cars and trucks will contest Stage 7 as scheduled.

In T3 light prototype, Guillaume De Mevius won Stage 6 to extend his lead over American podium finishers Austin “A.J.” Jones (second) and Seth Quintero (third).

“It was fun; we just followed Guillaume after we got passed,” Jones said. “Not too eventful. Some really rough dunes, smashing our head around. We’re here, and the car is all good.”

Quintero tried to make a charge in the final 50 kilometers but “a pretty big mistake” on navigation cost time.

“Completely my fault,” the Southern California native said. “I ended up on a plateau and was trying to get down to a valley. Bummer deal there. Had to go back to a waypoint and had a puncture with 6 to 7 kilometers to go. I don’t think today was our day but we’re still in the rally and got a smile on my face and go after it tomorrow.”

Mitch Guthrie rebounded for a fifth after a disastrous fifth stage for the Red Bull Off Road Junior Team driver. The American is ranked 31st overall in T3.

“Good day; we did all right after the issues yesterday,” Guthrie said. “Just to get back in the groove of things. I’m happy to get back to the finish line today.”

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 7 of the  2023 Dakar Rally originally was scheduled as a 641-kilometer loop stage around Al Duwadimi, traveling across undulating terrain and sandy plateaus. But Stages 7 and 8 were rearranged by race organizers because the bivouac location was impacted by rain. According to Dakar Rally website, the stage will start in Riyadh, and the special will be 333 kilometers. An assistance zone will be at the finish (via a 94-kilometer link), for a maximum time slot of two hours. The teams then will return to Al Duwadimi. The loop stage then will take place in Stage 8, racing against the clock for 345 kilometers before teams head to the bivouac in Riyadh.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 6 of the 2023 Dakar Rally (WILL BE UPDATED):


Car

Stage 6 winner: Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 3:13:12.

General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 24:00:48; 2. Henk Lategan (ZAF), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 25:07:38; 3. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 25:14:07.

Bike

Stage 6 winner: Luciano Benavides (ARG) 3:14:19

General rankings: 1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 26:31:52; 2. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 26:35:23; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 26:38:53. U.S. notables: 7. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 26:44:38; 25. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 29:52:31; 46. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 34:22:37; 61. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 36:24:12; 92. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 49:33:32; 95. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 50:30:45; 101. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 79:33:08; 103. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 84:03:53; 109. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 121:15:00. Awaiting classification: Paul Neff, American Rally Originals;  Withdrew: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49.

Quad

Stage 6 winner: Manuel Andjuar (ARG), 7240 Team, 4:08:25

General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 32:58:54; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 33:41:51; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 34:32:37.

T3 light prototype

Stage 6 winner: Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 3:39:43.

General rankings: 1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 27:55:22. 2. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 28:04:219. 3. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 29:03:37. U.S. notable: Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 52:44:57.

T4 SSV

Stage 6 winner: Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 3:43:18.

General rankings: 1. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 29:02:55; 2. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 29:23:12; 3. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 29:25:27.

Truck 

Stage 6 winner: Mitchel Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 3:46:58.

1. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 28:43:27; 2. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 28:44:04; 3. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 29:09:57.


PAST RECAPS

PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge

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

STAGE 4: Klein, Skyler Howes overcome adversity

STAGE 5: Skyler Howes moves into overall lead in bikes

AUDI CONTROVERSY: Electric hybrids given power boost

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.

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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.

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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.”