Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 12: Toby Price takes bike lead; Sebastien Loeb wins fifth straight

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Toby Price moved into the overall bike lead, and Sebastien Loeb won his fifth consecutive on Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally.

Price has been lurking in the top five for almost the entirety of the past 12 days, and the Australian finally seized first in the overall rankings with a third on his No. 8 Red Bull KTM 450 Rally Factory in Stage 12. With two stages remaining, the two-time Dakar Rally champion leads by 28 seconds over Skyler Howes (who was sixth) and 2 minutes 40 seconds over Kevin Benavides (fifth).

“The Empty Quarter has delivered what they said,” Price said. “There was a lot of sand and a lot of nothing out here. All in all, it’s been a good day. I just felt that I pushed where I was comfortable. I think that trying to have a strategy for the race at this point in time is completely out of the window. I’ve just got to stay on two wheels and stay healthy.

“Tomorrow, I’ll try and push really hard, because on the last day it’s a reverse grid. We need to see if we can make some really good time tomorrow, but then again you don’t want to push too crazily and risk an injury or being out of the race completely this close to the finishing line. But other than that, the body feels good, the bike feels good. It’s been a long two weeks.”

Howes, who is trying to become the second American to win the bike category, was disappointed after struggling again with some dunes.

“It wasn’t really my best stage,” the No. 10 Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory rider said. “It’s a little bit frustrating to find the rhythm, but it was clean. We got through it OK, the navigation was good. I felt a bit of the pace today. But it was all right, and we’ve still got a couple of more days left, so we’ll keep pushing. We’re fighting for seconds out there, and any time you spend, literally three extra seconds to put a tracker in your pocket, is just extra time.

“So it’s gnarly to be this close after so much racing, but it’s fun. It is a bit frustrating when you don’t really nail it on the days, but that’s how the Dakar works. There are so many days that you have to be on it and I feel like today I was a little bit off the pace.”

Loeb moved into second place overall with his fifth consecutive stage victory in the car category.

“We had a good drive; no mistakes at all, a big push all the time,” said the legendary World Rally Championship driver still seeking his first Dakar win. ” A perfect stage for me, so it was really good and we are really happy with the car. I’m pushing for second, so I’m trying my best.”

Loeb trails by 1 hours, 27 minutes, 10 seconds to Nasser Al-Attiyah, who seems on track for a fifth Dakar title after a third place in Stage 12.

“It’s good; just we really need to keep our car in one piece,” Al-Attiyah said. “For us, if we finish in the top five each day, it will be good because we have a good lead. I’m quite happy, and I think we need to just keep going like this and it will be good.”

In T3 light prototype, Austin “A.J.” Jones remained on track for his second consecutive Dakar championship. The Phoenix, Arizona, driver lead Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA teammate Seth Quintero by 1 hour, 4 minutes, 37 seconds. Jones finished fifth in Stage 12, which was won by fellow American teammate Mitch Guthrie.

“The stage was really good for us,” said Jones, who won the T4 SSV title last year. “We have a pretty decent lead right now, so we wanted to conserve it as much as possible, but then I realized we were going too slow at the beginning and it was almost going to get us into more trouble. So, we picked up the pace a little bit. We’ve kept our lead the way it is, so everything is all good over here. I’m excited there’s only two more days of it”.

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 penultimate stage will leave the dunes of the Empty Quarter on a 669-kilometer route (154km against the clock in the special) to Al-Hofuf. The marathon stages are over, so it should be easier for category leaders to protect their margins.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:


Car

Stage 12 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 1:56:21

General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 41:16:25; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 42:43:35; 3. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 42:45:36.

Bike

Stage 12 winner: Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL), Monster Energy Honda Team, 1:57:27

General rankings: 1. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 40:47:36; 2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 40:48:04; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 40:50:16. U.S. notables: 10. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 41:42:34;  24. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 44:48:41; 53. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 53:53:09; 61. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 56:27:53; 89. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 78:06:05. 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; James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 134:55:21.

Quad

Stage 12 winner: Marcel Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing Team, 2:37:04

General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 51:35:39; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 52:34:39; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 53:53:09.

T3 light prototype

Stage 12 winner: Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 2:17:11

General rankings: 1. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 47:39:47; 2. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 48:44:24; 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 49:05:37. U.S. notable: 24. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 75:34:30.

T4 SSV

Stage 12 winner: Michal Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 2:19:07

General rankings: 1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 49:02:02; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 49:05:45; 3. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 49:18:45.

Truck 

Stage 12 winner: Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 2:30:38

General rankings: 1. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 49:32:50; 2. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 50:05:53; 3. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 50:52:57.


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: 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

STAGE 10: Sebastien Loeb wins third consecutive stage

STAGE 11: Skyler Jones, Austin Jones in overall leads

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

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”