Dakar Rally 2023: the heroes and the unlucky
Unexpected Audi controversy
Audi started as the favorite of the Dakar Rally with three electric cars. But the two-week marathon in Saudi Arabia ended in disappointment for the Audi factory squad. Toyota won again in 2023.
Posted: 5:37 am
Updated: 12:32 pm
Dakar participants traveled 8,500 kilometers from January 1 to 16 in Saudi Arabia. We drove through tire-killing rocky deserts and over steep sand dunes.
Wolfgang Hörner and Raoul Schinnen
16 days and 8,500 kilometers of racing in tire-killing rocky deserts and over sand dunes – that was the 2023 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. Participants were often left to their own devices. Because unlike previous years, there were more stages without service options this year. This means that drivers and co-drivers had to repair any damage overnight.
In fact, such an adventure writes heroic stories. For example, about Nasser Al-Attiyah (52) and his sailor Mathieu Baumel (46). After 2022, the duo won the off-road race again this year with their works Toyota GR Hilux. It rained completely in the third stage it took them to the top of the rankings early on – and they stayed there until the final day. The driver from Qatar and his fellow French driver benefited from the bad luck of the competition. But they also knew how to skillfully manage their great leadership. This is already the fifth Dakar victory for Al-Attiyah.
Loeb’s great comeback
Nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb (48) and fellow driver Fabian Lurquin (47) also became heroes. On the road in Prodrive-Hunter, the British car used by the Bahrain Raid Xtremee team, they were initially seen as secret favorites alongside the works teams from Audi and Toyota. But a burnout and a crash on stage five set the French duo back. With a deficit of more than two hours for the leaders, the race seemed to be over. But Loeb didn’t give up, he drove like a maniac and went on to win six special stages in a row – something no one else has been able to do on the Dakar Rally before. In the end, a wild run to catch him earned him 2nd place in the overall standings.
Terrible hero Sainz
Two-time world champion and three-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz (60) fought bravely in Audi’s electric works. After teammate Stéphane Peterhansel (57) had to retire early due to an accident and two other Audi RS Q E-Trons also returned early due to defects and accidents, the team changed its tactics. Instead of the overall win, you now drove to as many stage wins as possible. The father of Ferrari F1 driver Carlos Sainz accelerated, winning the eighth stage, but he rolled on the following stage on the crest of a dune. Sainz was rescued by a rescue helicopter in pain. But “El Matador” did not want to give up that quickly. After 20 minutes of the flight, he instructed the pilot to turn around and return to the accident site, where his fellow driver Lucas Cruz (52) was waiting for him. But the pair’s many hours of dedication to getting the Audi going again didn’t help – the car remained beyond repair. After the retirement of the second works car, Mattias Eksström/Emil Bergkvist, the last Audi pair still in the race, was only responsible for crossing the finish line safely.
The organizer must have books
How environmentally friendly will the Dakar Rally and the associated Raid Rally World Championship be? Hybrid technology as used in the WRC World Championship has been rejected by many teams and manufacturers. It makes the cars more expensive and complex, which led to the rapid decline of individual teams in the WRC. And more than that, the Dakar Rally is primarily done by private participants and not by several works cars. So good advice is expensive.
How environmentally friendly will the Dakar Rally and the associated Raid Rally World Championship be? Hybrid technology as used in the WRC World Rally Championship has been rejected by many teams and manufacturers. It makes the cars more expensive and complex, which led to the rapid decline of individual teams in the WRC. And more than that, the Dakar Rally is basically done by private participants and not by several works cars. So good advice is expensive.
Tire damage on the running meter
Two retired and only one finished in 14th place – of course Audi had expected more. And so now it’s about drawing lessons from this spectacular view of 2024. Why, for example, were there so many punctures? All participants were traveling with normal tires. But only with Audi they broke the ranks. Ekström suffered three flat tires on one stage, and the cars are only allowed to carry two wheels. A possible reason could be that the Dakar cars were allowed to be 200 to 300 kg lighter when the type of tire was developed. The Audi team must not miss development and test work in the summer if they want to secure a place next year.
Rain disturbances in Saudi Arabia: Pilots battle against raging rivers in a desert rally(01:20)