March 27, 2023

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“Dakar” without “KAMAZ” – a race to the bottom with a flood and fractures. Hardest raid in years

Participants are asked not to do this again.

The first Dakar in 30 years without KAMAZ has come to an end – and the participants have not been so happy about the finish line for a long time. After all, after the prologue and the first stages, it became clear: the sports director of Dakar, David Castera, took to heart the feedback from the participants on the last raid in the style of “not so hardcore, too much for beginners” – and made a route for a real race to the bottom.

If at the Dakar 2022 everyone was primarily concerned about punctures due to sharp stones, the search for flaws in the navigation book and orientation issues, now these three factors were remembered in passing – extremely dangerous dunes and potholes, difficult in themselves, came to the fore points, difficult terrain and terrain, upheavals and breakdowns. And the weather added more: half the time of the raid, Saudi Arabia was poured with rain, because the “dried” riverbeds suddenly turned out to be stormy and full-flowing, and the desert turned into a mud swamp.

After a couple of first days, the route scared even experienced riders so much that they slowed down too abruptly in any incomprehensible situation – and it didn’t always end well:

“We asked to make the Dakar somehow more difficult, and it seems that this year David Castera made it really difficult,” commented the co-driver of the nine-time world rally champion Sebastian Loeb. “Especially in navigation: longer stages, two more stages, no neutralization.”

“I must admit, we ourselves asked for a more difficult Dakar, because the latter was a little rustic,” admitted Sven Quandt, head of the Audi program. – And now we have a very difficult Dakar.

“A long and difficult race, David Castera has prepared a real challenge,” Jean-Marc Fortin, the boss of the winning Toyota, admitted after the finish. “We used to complain that it was too easy, so he decided to make it very difficult.”

Only the second part came out a little easier, because the riders already knew it approximately – another rally-raid passes through it.

“This part [of the Rub al Khali desert] is very similar to the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge,” described Guillaume de Mevius, who lost his lead in the advanced T3 ATV class two stages before the finish line due to a motor failure. “We are close to where the race is taking place.”

Although navigation sometimes had difficulties – sometimes up to head-on collisions due to ridiculous errors:

However, at this Dakar, the total number of fails, flips, accidents, mistakes and breakdowns turned out to be so huge that one of the participants in this crash, Marek Gochal, eventually finished second in his standings.

But you can understand the general mood: it was not just the best navigator who claimed the victory, but the one who pierced the fewest wheels and did not destroy the car in the first coup. Therefore, in most classes, the battle for victory was concentrated between two or three people – mostly it was fought by those who survived the meat grinder of the first couple of stages.

Incredible number of hospitalizations in the motorcycle class, the winner decided on the last kilometer: 43 seconds advantage

Probably not a single Dakar over the past five years has collected such a number of injured favorites! You can simply list: on the 50th kilometer , reigning champion Sam Sunderland went to the hospital with a broken scapula , and on the third stage, 2020 champion Ricky Brabeck joined him in the hospital with fractures .

The legendary veteran Joan Barreda Bort, the winner of 28 stages in the motorcycle class, did not reach the finish line of the 9th (only Depre and Peterhansel had more – 33 each). He also flew to the hospital with fractures.

Then the winner of the 2nd special stage Mason Kline came down – he was also injured twice on the 9th and was physically unable to continue.

The 2018 Dakar champion Matthias Walkner did not reach the finish line either – after a fall in the early stages, his limbs looked like this:

And by the end of the raid, he injured his back – teammate Kevin Benavidez had to call a medical helicopter and hold a drip while the doctors quickly helped the Austrian.

The leader until the final special stage, Toby Price, constantly tweeted reports in the style of: “yes, I also constantly fall and make mistakes, total chaos.”

Another leader Nacho Cornejo at one of the stages hit so hard that he could not get out from under the bike and broke the roadbook !

And that’s just those who regularly feature in the top 10 – the less elite riders suffered even more. Probably, the medical brigade “Dakar” has not yet had such an intense raid.

The best feature of the route: when heavy rains washed out part of the road and access roads to the bivouac before the seventh stage, the race for motorcycle racers was canceled with the wording never seen before in the Dakar due to the unprecedented fatigue of the participants. There were still 5 stages left before the finish line, including marathon ones (without the help of teams with common overnight stays in tents).

Moreover, the sports intrigue was also preserved: before the last stage, Price won 12 seconds from Benavidez and 1.5 minutes from Skyler Howes. Everything was decided by two checkpoints in the last kilometers – at the finish line, Kevin snatched 43 seconds from Toby. Third – Howes with a delay of 5 minutes.

The winner in the Original category without mechanics is Charan Moore . These guys just deserve a standing ovation like real heroes: 15 out of 24 made it to the finish line!

The first in ATVs – Alexandre Giroud for the second time in a row. Moreover, only 10 people in his class saw the finish – half of those who started, and he himself took the lead from the first stage and held it up to the checkered flag. Without special mistakes and failures – a phenomenal heroic stability for this “Dakar”!

SUVs: Loeb’s record, the victory of the main “survivor”

The elite in the auto class also went through the problems of motorcycle racers: for example, the nine-time world rally champion Sebastian Loeb (and the greatest loser of the Dakar: in 5 attempts (until 2023) he won 16 stages and came second twice) again crushed punctures and dunes :

“Dakar” again crushed Loeb: knocked down on a dune. Put a spectator on wheels – usually this is a disqualification, but Sebastian was suddenly forgiven

By the end of the fifth stage, he was 2 hours behind the leader and dropped out of the real battle for the victory.

The drivers of the Audi factory program also flew out of the battle in a synchronized accident in the first half of the raid – the crews of the great champions Sainz and Peterhansel crashed on the same dune, navigator Stefan was taken to the hospital for surgery with broken vertebrae.