SI

Dakar Veterans Price, Ekstrom Kick Off 2023 Event With Prologue Stage Wins

Two-time Dakar Rally Motorcycle winner Toby Price and all-around racing legend Mattias Ekstrom took victories in their respective classes in the Prologue of the 2023 race, a 13-kilometer shakedown stage overlooking the Red Sea near Yanbu, Saudi Arabia. Ekstrom’s Audi RS Q e-tron E2 finished the first stage in eight minutes flat, just one second ahead of two-time Dakar runner-up and WRC legend Sebastien Loeb, while Price took a one-second victory of his own on the bikes ahead of fellow Australian Daniel Sanders.

With a short stage to kick of the proceedings as in past years, there wasn’t much opportunity for anyone to create much of a gap. The fastest racers in most classes finished the stage in under nine minutes, including T3 winner Cristina Gutierrez (8:49) and Quad winner Alexandre Giroud (8:50). In total, the top 11 motorcycle racers (including past winners like Matthias Walkner and Ricky Brabec) and top six car racers (Dakar icons Stephane Peterhansel and Nasser Al-Attiyah among them) were within 15 seconds of their class Prologue-winning times.

In the smaller four-wheel divisions, T3 and T4, things may have even been closer. Gutierrez only nipped Seth Quintero, winner of 12 of last year’s 13 stages, by two seconds, while Mitch Guthrie Jr. made his return to the Dakar with a fourth place class finish and defending T3 winner Chaleco Lopez was seventh at 15 seconds back. Last year’s T4 winner, AJ Jones, finished 12th in his T3 debut, leaving last year’s third place finisher Rokas Baciuska to win the Prologue and start the chase to take the vacant title.

The Truck class will likely see the biggest shift in rankings from last year, as the Russian-based Kamaz-Master Team elected not to accept FIA conditions in order to participate in the event. Without the top four finishers from last year’s event, Czech driver Martin Macik and his MM Technology team notched the first victory, as Iveco Powerstars took four of the top five spots in the Prologue; Martin Soltys’ Tatra Buggyra machine was the lone exception.

Tomorrow’s Stage 1 of the 2023 Dakar Rally will see racers finish where they started, with a 367-kilometer loop stage based at Sea Camp. Coverage of the stage will debut on the Peacock app at 6:30PM ET, and will air at that same time every day for the duration of the rally.

Chris Leone

A veteran of the motorsports industry (both physical and digital), Chris Leone contributes coverage of race events of all types to Off-Road Racer. Elsewhere, he is the marketing/communications manager at iRacing, media director of Jim Beaver's Down & Dirty Show, and a frequent contributor to UTV Underground.