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Toby Price moved into the overall bike lead, and Sebastien Loeb won his fifth consecutive on Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally.
Price has been lurking in the top five for almost the entirety of the past 12 days, and the Australian finally seized first in the overall rankings with a third in Stage 12. With two stages remaining, the two-time Dakar Rally champion leads by 28 seconds over Skyler Howes (who was sixth) and 2 minutes 40 seconds over Kevin Benavides (fifth).
“The Empty Quarter has delivered what they said,” Price said. “There was a lot of sand and a lot of nothing out here. All in all, it’s been a good day. I just felt that I pushed where I was comfortable. I think that trying to have a strategy for the race at this point in time is completely out of the window. I’ve just got to stay on two wheels and stay healthy.
“Tomorrow, I’ll try and push really hard, because on the last day it’s a reverse grid. We need to see if we can make some really good time tomorrow, but then again you don’t want to push too crazily and risk an injury or being out of the race completely this close to the finishing line. But other than that, the body feels good, the bike feels good. It’s been a long two weeks.”
Howes, who is trying to become the second American to win the bike category, was disappointed after struggling again with some dunes.
“It wasn’t really my best stage,” he said. “It’s a little bit frustrating to find the rhythm, but it was clean. We got through it OK, the navigation was good. I felt a bit of the pace today. But it was all right, and we’ve still got a couple of more days left, so we’ll keep pushing. We’re fighting for seconds out there, and any time you spend, literally three extra seconds to put a tracker in your pocket, is just extra time.
“So it’s gnarly to be this close after so much racing, but it’s fun. It is a bit frustrating when you don’t really nail it on the days, but that’s how the Dakar works. There are so many days that you have to be on it and I feel like today I was a little bit off the pace.”
Loeb moved into second place overall with his fifth consecutive stage victory in the car category.
“We had a good drive; no mistakes at all, a big push all the time,” said the legendary World Rally Championship driver still seeking his first Dakar win. ” A perfect stage for me, so it was really good and we are really happy with the car. I’m pushing for second, so I’m trying my best.”
Loeb trails by 1 hours, 27 minutes, 10 seconds to Nasser Al-Attiyah, who seems on track for a fifth Dakar title after a third place in Stage 12.
“It’s good; just we really need to keep our car in one piece,” Al-Attiyah said. “For us, if we finish in the top five each day, it will be good because we have a good lead. I’m quite happy, and I think we need to just keep going like this and it will be good.”
In T3 light prototype, Austin “A.J.” Jones remained on track for his second consecutive Dakar championship. The Phoenix, Arizona, driver lead Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA teammate Seth Quintero by 1 hour, 4 minutes, 37 seconds. Jones finished fifth in Stage 12, which was won by fellow American teammate Mitch Guthrie.
“The stage was really good for us,” said Jones, who won the T4 SSV title last year. “We have a pretty decent lead right now, so we wanted to conserve it as much as possible, but then I realized we were going too slow at the beginning and it was almost going to get us into more trouble. So, we picked up the pace a little bit. We’ve kept our lead the way it is, so everything is all good over here. I’m excited there’s only two more days of it”.
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 penultimate stage will leave the dunes of the Empty Quarter on a 669-kilometer route (154km against the clock in the special) to Al-Hofuf. The marathon stages are over, so it should be easier for category leaders to protect their margins.
Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 12 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:
Stage 12 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 1:56:21
General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 41:16:25; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 42:43:35; 3. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 42:45:36.
Stage 12 winner: Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL), Monster Energy Honda Team, 1:57:27
General rankings: 1. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 40:47:36; 2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 40:48:04; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 40:50:16. U.S. notables: 10. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 41:42:34; 24. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 44:48:41; 53. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 53:53:09; 61. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 56:27:53; 89. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 78:06:05. . 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.
Stage 12 winner: Marcel Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing Team, 2:37:04
General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 51:35:39; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 52:34:39; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 53:53:09.
T3 light prototype
Stage 12 winner: Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 2:17:11
General rankings: 1. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 47:39:47; 2. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 48:44:24; 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 49:05:37. U.S. notable: 24. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 75:34:30.
Stage 12 winner: Michal Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 2:19:07
General rankings: 1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 49:02:02; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 49:05:45; 3. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 49:18:45.
Stage 12 winner: Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 2:30:38
General rankings: 1. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 49:32:50; 2. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 50:05:53; 3. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 50:52:57.
PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge
STAGE 1: Ricky Brabec opens with victory; Carlos Sainz keeps Audi on top
STAGE 2: Mason Klein continues U.S. surge in bikes
STAGE 3: Brabec is eliminated by crash as inclement weather shortens stage
STAGE 4: Mason Klein, Skyler Howes overcome adversity
STAGE 5: Skyler Howes moves into overall lead in bikes
STAGE 6: Disastrous day for Audi as crashes eliminate contenders
STAGE 7: Americans excel in T3 light prototype
STAGE 8: Mason Klein, Skyler Howes keep U.S. riders at front
STAGE 9: Carlos Sainz forced to abandon event after another crash
STAGE 10: Sebastien Loeb wins third consecutive stage
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
Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 12: Toby Price takes bike lead; Sebastien Loeb wins fifth straight originally appeared on NBCSports.com