Carlos Sainz in action. (Red Bull Racing Photo)
Carlos Sainz, Kevin Benavidez and Chaleco Lopez all dug deep and shined on Sunday’s tricky Stage 1 of the 45th edition of the Dakar Rally, motorsport’s toughest endurance test.
The 2023 Dakar Rally wasted no time delivering drama on the sands of Saudi Arabia. Sunday’s stage 1 saw the bike race defending his champion slammed into the spot and the rookie challenger outperforming.
New Year’s Day saw motorsport legend Carlos Sainz drive the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 with co-driver Lucas Cruz for the 42nd Won the Dakar stage.
“I had a puncture in the beginning and after that I was careful with the stones,” said Sainz.
Sam Sunderland’s bike title defense came to an end 52km into the stage, with 2020 winner Ricky Brabec topping the timesheets, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo Kevin Benavidez and Toby Price, and Australian Daniel Saunders in 1st. Within minutes remained.
“I avoided making any big mistakes and just kept cruising. It was fun,” said Saunders.
Chile’s Chaleco Lopez’s new Dakar starts where his last Dakar left off, with the defending champion joining co-driver Juan Pablo Latrak on the stage for the Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team – Scored a win, taking overall lead in the T3 category with Rokas Bachuska and Auriol. Vidal took another win in the T4 category.
“This was only the first stage, but it already feels like a proper Dakar,” said Vidal.
In the second phase on Monday, the convoy leaves Sea Camp and heads east towards Alura. Massive boulders and deep canyons are featured in a 430km time special stage and a series of desert dunes.