The top three bike riders in the 2023 Dakar Rally are separated by 91 seconds heading after Stage 13 and heading into the final day of the rally raid classic.
Two-time Dakar champion Toby Price leads Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Kevin Benavides (the Stage 13 winner) by 12 seconds with one stage remaining. American Skyler Howes is 1 minute, 31 seconds behind on his Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally 450.
Pushing to the limit to maintain his lead, Price went over the edge but recovered to finish fifth.
“I made one little mistake around 130 (kilometers),” the Australian said. “We went too far right, and I took a fall while looking at the top of a dune. At this stage here, you need to push to keep the lead. The last days, the dunes have been really soft, you can get stuck very easily. It was really difficult to try and keep on the cap heading.
“I caught the guys around 90 and just thought to myself, ‘If I want to win this race, I need to be at the front and try and capture that bonus a little bit.’ I’m happy, I’ve put a 100% in every day.”
Benavides moved into second overall with his first stage victory in this year’s Dakar.
He won Stage 13 after being compensated for time he lost by stopping to wait for a safety team to reach teammate Matthias Walkner, who crashed out in a hard impact and needed to be airlifted for medical attention.
“I saw Matthias on the ground at kilometer 55, and it was so scary because he was with a lot of pain on the back,” Benavides said. “He said he feels he broke something. I stayed with him. We called the doctors. And then when he was a little more calm, he told me to go, because otherwise I can’t do nothing, just try to say everything will be OK. I hope everything will be OK for him. He’s my teammate, so it’s hard.”
I really wanted to push to keep this outright lead going into tomorrow which we did. I actually had a crash today and made a couple of mistakes, I honestly thought I made a bit of a mess of it all 🤦♂️😂 I just knew I had to give it large 😄 One more day to go, wish me luck 😅 pic.twitter.com/aPHOO6N1HY
— Toby Price (@tobyprice87) January 14, 2023
Howes finished seventh in the stage, 3 minutes, 31 seconds behind the winner and just over a minute behind Price (who had taken the lead in Stage 12) after two minor crashes.
“I definitely pushed my all,” said Howes, the Utah resident trying to become the second U.S. rider to win the Dakar. “In the very first part, I had one small crash, just got stuck in the dunes. I came up on (a crash for Matthias Walkner). After that moment, I was a bit nervous because we were going in the direction with a lot of big dune cuts. I also had some big jumps off of them myself. I wanted to push and I really wanted to win, but I also wanted to get to the finish line safely.
“Then we had one mistake, where we missed a waypoint and had to do a circle. It was hard to find a rhythm with the sun directly overhead and the big dune drops, I was a bit nervous out there. At the end, I really pushed, and a couple of mistakes slowed me down a bit.”
There is one stage remaining, but Howes conceded that Stage 13 was the last chance to gain significant ground because making up 91 seconds on the last day “is not really a big possibility. We’ll still give it a push. Anything can happen on the last day.
“I have to be super happy with how the race has gone so far because I can never look back and think I didn’t ride my best,” Howes said. “The last stage is going to be very fast and not really enough to make up valuable time. The result today will define the outcome of the race.”
Howes is the last remaining American threat with the withdrawal of Mason Klein after Stage 12. Klein, who was impressive during the first week of his second Dakar start, suffered the lingering effects of some crashes that affected his head and neck.
“I’m done,” Klein, 21, said after Stage 12. “Just in so much pain. I can’t stand. I can’t sit. I just can’t ride. I only rode today because I didn’t know how to get back any other way.”
Bart Van Der Velden, the team for BAS world that fields Klein’s bike, said it was a “wise decision” to withdraw because the riding would be “dangerous” with the injuries.
“It’s not worth battling for a 20th position or something like that,” Van Der Velden said. “We know he’s capable of a good result, and it’s not worth putting yourself at such a risk, especially at that age.”
❌ Winner of the 2nd stage, Mason Klein didn't start this morning. The young American was injured since he crashed twice on stage 9. An X-ray at the bivouac at the finish of the marathon stage yesterday found nothing abnormal but Klein eventually decided to withdraw.#Dakar2023 pic.twitter.com/8g5dcRkHOR
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 14, 2023
In the car category, Sebastien Loeb set a Dakar Rally record in the T1-plus category with his sixth consecutive stage victory, but he still trails Nasser-Al-Attiyah by an insurmountable 1:21:42. The previous mark for consecutive stage wins by a car driver was held by Ari Vatanen, who won six in a row during the 1989 Dakar Rally.
“It’s great, even though the record was not necessarily my goal,” said Loeb, who has seven stage wins. “I especially wanted to cement my second place. Championship points are important too, so I pushed. I can set a strong pace, I’m confident, I can drive aggressively while watching out for broken dunes. It’s cool.”
Al-Attiyah finished second in the stage and is a virtual lock for his fifth Dakar Rally championship.
“I’m happy to keep our first place until the finish,” Al-Attiyah said. “For the (W2RC) championship, it is important to do well, like we did today, because it earns us points in the fight against Séb, who’s cranking out one stage win after another. Today, finishing just behind him limits the difference to 1 point, but what is really important to me is winning the Dakar.
“The race was great for us, we just have to bring the title home now.”
The American drivers of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA continued to dominate the T3 lightweight prototype category. Mitch Guthrie won his fifth stage while teammates Austin “A.J.” Jones and Seth Quintero continued to hold the top two overall spots.
“It was a tough day, but a lot of fun,” Guthrie said. “The car did great, so we’re happy. A long day, tough on the body and on the car.
“I’m happy we’ve definitely shown the speed that the car has, the team, everyone. We’ve put in a lot of work, and it’s been a great rally so far, other than some issues we had.”
Jones finished ninth in what he called his hardest stage. “It was tough, and I wasn’t expecting it,” Jones said. “About halfway through, I was asking my navigator, ‘Is all day going to be like this?’ ”
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 final stage will end on the shores of the Persian Gulf after a 414-kilometer stage (136km against the clock in the special) from Al-Hofuf to Dammam.
Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 13 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:
Stage 13 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 2:26:17
General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 43:48:10; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 45:09:52; 3. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 45:24:00.
Stage 13 winner: Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 2:21:47
General rankings: 1. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 43:11:51; 2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 43:12:03; 3. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 43:13:22. U.S. notables: 21. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 47:18:47; 50. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 56:55:04; 63. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 59:52:44; 85. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 82:56:41. 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; Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 41:42:34.
Stage 13 winner: Marcelo Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing Team, 2:55:48
General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 54:53:18; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 55:33:38; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 56:55:04.
T3 lightweight prototype
Stage 13 winner: Mitch Guthrie (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 2:41:08
General rankings: 1. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 50:31:59; 2. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 51:26:29; 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 52:05:27. U.S. notable: 23. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 78:15:38.
Stage 13 winner: Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 2:35:13
General rankings: 1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 51:41:34; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 51:44:58; 3. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 52:04:35.
Stage 13 winner: Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 3:02:43
General rankings: 1. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 52:38:58; 2. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 53:55:40; 3. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 55:22:01.
PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge
STAGE 12: Toby Price takes overall bike lead
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 FLAG: U.S. drivers and riders in the 2023 Dakar Rally