As the motorcycle special was cancelled, American riders were largely left out, but American riders still performed well in Stage 7 of the 2023 Dakar Rally.
American Mitch Guthrie won the T3 light prototype class, while Red Bull Off-Road Junior teammates Seth Quintero (fourth on stage) and Austin “AJ” Jones (sixth) fell short of overall leader Guillaume de Mevius.
On seven of the 14 stages, de Mevius leads Jones (who won last year’s T4 SSV class) by 8 minutes 29 seconds and Quintero by 1 hour 2 minutes 55 seconds.
Guthrie is more than 24 hours behind the pace, but continued his recovery from a disastrous Stage 5 with a second straight top-five finish.
“Good scene; lots of fun and a little bit of everything,” Guthrie said. “We started at the back of the pack of the best SSVs and were able to follow the cars and make a few overtakes. In the end, we had a good fight, we defeated Guillaume, and Seth was behind us, and all three of us fought to the end. All in all, I’m very happy.”
Quintero finished just under 3 minutes from Guthrie but over 5 minutes from de Mevius, closing the overall lead. The Southern California native said he took his time at the start of the 333-kilometre special stage to avoid a puncture, giving up the lead to Guthrie. At 50 kilometers Quintero caught up with de Mevius after the Belgian made a navigational error.
“It was a very fun fight,” Quintero said. “It was nice that we had good navigation today and overall we played a lot of time.”
De Mevius said: “It was quite a tough day for us. We got caught and got a puncture. It was rugged terrain, and I was being careful… maybe a little too careful.”
Jones also made up 30 seconds by finishing just ahead of de Mevius. “I worked a little today,” Jones said. “I had problems in the first half and came back strong in the second half. Gustavo (Gugelmin, navigator) did an excellent job of navigating.”
With no way to keep track of the bikes, this was an unusual milestone for the general category of T1 cars. Yazid Al Raji raced to win with the fastest time starting deep in the field while some of the main contenders struggled with navigation.
“It was very difficult without bikes in front,” said Sebastien Loeb, who moved up to fifth place overall from ninth on stage. “It was quite difficult to find small tracks (which were) very small. We knew it would be very difficult to keep up with the other guys.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah maintained an overall lead of over an hour over his Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Henk Lategan despite finishing 14th on the stage, more than 19 minutes behind Al Raja.
“It wasn’t easy,” said Al-Attiyah, the reigning car champion who is aiming for his fifth title. “We opened with no footprints ahead of us and the last part was really hard to navigate. Suddenly, three or four cars were dueling. The last 20-30 kilometers were crazy.”
The already crazy Dakar Rally just got even crazier for the Audi team.
After teammates Carlos Sainz and Stefan Peterhansel crashed on stage 6.Mattias Ekström was in the lead on Stage 7 when he was forced to stop after 196 kilometers due to a broken wishbone from hitting a rock.
Eventually, Sainz stopped by to borrow his suspension for repairs.
“Another bad day for us,” said the three-time Dakar Rally champion. “This is definitely not our lucky draw. But we will continue to learn more and more. I stopped to remove Mattias and we had to wait over three hours before our service truck arrived to help us get back on the road.”
The Spaniard finished in 6 hours 34 minutes 34 seconds and is now in 45th place, almost 30 hours behind.
The bikers and quads stuck to the connecting route, an untimed 500-kilometer stretch of road from Riyadh to Al Duwadimi. Although leader Skyler Howes was frustrated at missing out on a day of mud riding, he praised the call from Dakar Rally officials after many riders arrived at the bivouac well after midnight after several hours on Friday of a cold and wet track.
“Because we’re driving here (on the highway) and looking at the scenery, I’d rather race, but at the same time, it’s not about us,” said Hawes, a native of St. George, Utah. “We may have arrived at a decent time and were able to recover, but a lot of people were stuck there for many hours. It’s not always about what we want. I would rather race, but there are also a lot of people who would be very tired, wet and cold, and would like to take a break.
“What is important for the organization is that everyone has a difficult task, but a good experience is here. And hanging out in the rain and cold isn’t fun or safe for everyone. To give us a break from a long association… I would rather be in the dirt, but we can also ride our bikes off-road.”
Mason Klein, an American rider who finished seventh overall, said: “I love riding and I think I have fewer days to catch up. But everything happens for a reason, and I’m happy to be here. I think that’s all that really matters.”
NBC Sports’ daily coverage of the 2023 Dakar Rally at 6:30 pm ET. I will continue tonight on the sports channel Peacock NBC.
NEXT: Stage 8 will be different from what was originally planned as stages 7 and 8. were rearranged by the organizers of the race because the place of the bivouac was affected by rain. As the teams returned to Al Duwadimi for Sunday’s rest, stage eight will be a 345km time trial circuit before the teams head to the bivouac in Riyadh.
Here are the stage winners and the first three places overall in each category (along with notable US players) after Stage 7 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:
Stage 7 winner: Yazid Al Raji (SAU), Overdrive Racing, 3:06:23.
Overall Rating: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 27:26:23; 2. Henk Lategan (ZAF), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 28:27:27; 3. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 28:37:47.
Stage 7 Special Offer Canceled
Overall Rating: 1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 26:31:52; 2. Toby Price (Australia), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 26:35:23; 3. Kevin Benavidez (Argentina), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 26:38:53. celebrity usa: 7. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 26:44:38; 25. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co rally team, 29:52:31; 46. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 34:22:37; 61. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 36:24:12; 92. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 49:33:32; 95. Morrison Hart, American Rally Trailblazers, 50:30:45; 101. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 79:33:08; 103. Lawrence Ace Nielson, Duust Rally Team, 84:03:53; 109. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 121:15:00. Pending Classification: Paul Neff, American Rally Originals; Featured: Ricky Brabeck (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49.
Stage 7 Special Offer Canceled
Overall Rating: 1. Alexandre Giroud (France), Yamaha Racing, 32:58:54; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (Argentina), Dragon, 33:41:51; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 34:32:37.
T3 Lightweight Prototype
Stage 7 winner: Mitch Guthrie, Junior Team Red Bull Off-Road, 3:39:37.
Overall Rating: 1. Guillaume de Mevius (Belgium), Grally team, 31:43:12. 2. Austin “AJ” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 31:51:41. 3. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 32:46:07. famous USA: Mitch Guthrie, Junior Team Red Bull Off-Road, 56:24:34.
Stage 7 winner: Rokas Bachuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory team, 3:45:34.
Overall Rating: 1. Rokas Bachuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 33:08:46; 2. Marek Gotsal (Poland), Energylandia rally team, 33:14:28; 3. Eric Gotsal (Poland), Energylandia rally team, 33:15:09.
Stage 7 winner: Janus Van Castren (Netherlands), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 3:35:10.
1. Alesh Loprais (Czech Republic), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 32:22:56; 2. Martin Van Den Brink (Netherlands), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 32:24:56; 3. Janus Van Castren (Netherlands), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 32:45:07.
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CARRYING THE FLAG: Riders and riders from the USA at the 2023 Dakar Rally