Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 10: Sebastien Loeb continues late push with third consecutive win

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Sebastien Loeb remained dominant in Stage 10 of the 2023 Dakar Rally with his third consecutive victory, but Nasser Al-Attiyah still controls the overall standings in the premier car category.

The Bahrain Raid Xtreme driver cut nearly 6 minutes off Al-Attiyah’s lead with his fourth stage victory in the No. 201 Prodrive Hunter, winning the short 114-kilometer special in 1 hour, 48 minutes, 32 seconds over Mattias Ekstrom and Lucas Moraes.

“It was a good stage for us,” said Loeb, a legendary champion of World Rallycross who is seeking his first Dakar Rally victory in his sixth start. “No mistakes, no problems. Only dunes for more than 100 kilometers. It was quite demanding, but the feeling was good with the car. We were the first on the track, but we had the motorbike tracks. It was OK; no troubles.”

The Frenchman remained third in the overall standings but still trails Al-Attiyah by 1 hour, 37 minutes and 23 seconds.

With four stages remaining, Al-Attiyah has a 1:21:34 lead over Moraes after the four-time Qatari champion finished fourth in Stage 10 (5 minutes, 45 seconds behind Loeb).

“The special was short but tough,” Al-Attiyah said. “We got to the Empty Quarter. It was a good day to test things for tomorrow. We know what we need. I’m pleased. I’ve got a good feeling with the car. We didn’t make any mistakes. I didn’t push too hard today. I didn’t want to take risks. The marathon stage is tomorrow.”

A critical Stage 11 — with a marathon 275-kilometer special (more than double of Stage 10) — looms for the Dakar Rally in what could be the last opportunity for big movement in the standings. The event now has entered the Empty Quarter section that is dominated by dunes and sand.

In the bike category, American rider Skyler Howes slipped to second overall behind Kevin Benavides by 1 minute, 29 seconds with an 18th in Stage 10 because of a minor fall that brought some chuckles on social media (via the Dakar Rally account). Howes had kicked his feet out just before tumbling.

“Here in these dunes, there’s some drops and holes and all kinds of crazy stuff you can find yourself into and also some really soft sand on some landings of jumps,” Howes said. “Which I’m sure you’ll see. So yeah, it hurt my ego a little bit, but anything for the fans.

“It definitely was 100 percent dunes. Really technical. At the beginning, there were lots of drops and scary downhills, so we took it slow and easy to make it through for the marathon stage.”

Howes, who is trying to become the second U.S. rider to win Dakar, is optimistic about his Husqvarna Factory 450 Rally heading into the marathon stage.

“I just wanted to make it through this stage today and get ready for the marathon stage,” he said. “On short stages like this, you can definitely lose it, but trying to win it is not necessary.”

In the T3 category, Seth Quintero won Stage 10 and regained some time to overall leader Guillaume De Mevius, who finished 9 minutes, 30 seconds behind in 12th.

“Safe to say it was absolutely amazing,” Quintero said after his second stage victory of 2023. “I woke up today with a lot to prove. We’ve had some pretty off days with just some issues we’ve had. Today, we absolutely sent it and looks like we got the win by a good margin. We really couldn’t have asked for a better day today. We’re just going to keep chugging along and see what happens in the end. We’ve got a long way to go.”

A.J. Jones, a teammate to Quintero on the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, finished sixth in Stage 10 and is second overall, 7 minutes, 48 seconds off the lead of De Mevius with four stages left.

“Not a bad day for us,” De Mevius said. “We started the stage with a roll in the dunes. It was quite a scary moment, but some members of the public helped us get back on the way, so thank you to them. We had to change a wheel because we’d damaged a tire. We lost quite a bit of time. It was quite difficult to find our rhythm on the dunes. It was very different from the beginning of the race, now it’ll be like this for some days.”

There was a change in the overall lead of the truck category after Ales Loprais was involved in an incident that killed an Italian spectator. Loprais had been leading through Stage 9 but abandoned the rally to support local authorities after learning of the death upon return to the bivouac Tuesday night.

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

NEXT: The marathon stage will cover 426 kilometers (275 against the clock in the special) from Shaybah into the Empty Quarter and extreme endurance territory on sand of every color. Staying out of trouble is critical with no assistance trucks or mechanics available at the bivouac.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 10 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:


Car

Stage 10 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 1:48:32

General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 36:13:37; 2. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 37:35:11; 3. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 37:51:00.

Bike

Stage 10 winner: Ross Branch (BWA), Hero Motorsports Team Rally, 1:44:00

General rankings: 1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 35:46:06; 2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 35:47:35; 3. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 35:48:16. U.S. notables: 6. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 36:01:44;  24. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 39:32:24; 50. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 46:36:35; 61. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 49:00:52; 90. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 67:29:02; 97. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 112:53:21. Withdrawal (excluded): Kyle McCoy (USA), American Rally Originals; David Pearson (USA), American Rally Originals; Lawrence Ace Nilson (USA), Duust Rally Team,. Withdrew: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49; Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 61:36:48.

Quad

Stage 10 winner: Marcelo Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing Team, 2:04:28

General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 44:35:00; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 45:52:56; 3. Manual Andjuar (ARG), 7420 Team, 46:13:44; 4. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 46:36:35.

T3 light prototype

Stage 10 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 1:55:17

General rankings: 1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 41:45:58; 2. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 41:53:46; 3. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 42:49:40. U.S. notable: 28. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 66:16:33.

T4 SSV

Stage 10 winner: Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), South Racing Can-Am, 1:58:22

General rankings: 1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 43:17:29; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 43:21:09; 3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), South Racing Can-Am, 43:24:16.

Truck 

Stage 10 winner: Pascal De Baar (NLD), Riwald Dakar Team, 2:09:46

General rankings: 1. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 43:00:51; 2. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 43:23:32; 3. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 43:51:58.


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: Mason Klein, Skyler Howes overcome adversity

STAGE 5: Skyler Howes moves into overall lead in bikes

STAGE 6: Disastrous day for Audi as crashes eliminate contenders

STAGE 7: Americans excel in T3 light prototype

STAGE 8: Mason Klein, Skyler Howes keep U.S. riders at front

STAGE 9: Carlos Sainz forced to abandon event after another crash

SKYLER HOWES’ SPIRITUAL QUEST: American rider takes a gratifying road to overall lead

U.S. EXCELS IN ‘OLYMPICS OF OFF ROAD’: American T3 drivers stay on charge for Red Bull

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’

Helio Castroneves IndyCar futur
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
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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.”

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 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).

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

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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”