Nasser Al-Attiyah remains firmly atop the car class standings of the 2023 Dakar Rally as the event enters its only rest day, finishing second by just 2:11 to Sebastien Loeb in today’s shortened 346 kilometers of special stages from Al Duwadimi back to Riyadh. Al-Attiyah’s lead remains more than an hour over Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Henk Lategan with six stages left to run, while Overdrive Racing rookie Lucas Moraes holds more than half an hour of padding on Loeb for the final podium spot.
The lead remains the same, in fact, across all the event’s major classes, but the complexion has changed significantly in the motorcycle division. American Skyler Howes is still up front, holding a 13-second advantage over both Kevin Benavides and fellow American Mason Klein. Klein, who initially finished second to Ross Branch on stage today, would have become the new overall leader and made it an American 1-2 if not for a two-minute speeding penalty; the penalty also allowed Daniel Sanders to bump Klein back to third on the day.
Klein wasn’t the only racer to lose the lead of something with a penalty today, though. Carlos Sainz, now out of overall contention after his Stage 6 accident, helped to support Audi teammate Mattias Ekstrom by offering up his suspension to the Swede after issues on Stage 7. Karma appeared ready to pay Sainz back with a Stage 8 win, but a five-minute speeding penalty dropped him to third in the daily rankings. It’s been an especially cruel rally for Audi, with Sainz and Ekstrom each suffering multiple issues and Stephane Peterhansel having to withdraw after Stage 6 after crashing on the same dune as Sainz.
The top six riders are separated by under three minutes going into the final six stages of the event, making the bikes the most contested category at this point, but both side-by-side divisions have tight battles up front as well. The T4 SSV category, still led by Rokas Baciuska, has its top four entries separated by just 6:19; fifth place Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli is more than a half hour further back, but he did win the stage today. In T3 Lightweight Prototype, the race remains between Guillaume De Mevius and AJ Jones, but Jones cut De Mevius’ lead in half today with a fourth place stage finish, 3:11 behind class winner Joao Ferreira.
On the quads, Manuel Andujar won his second stage in a row, but could only take two minutes out of Alexandre Giroud’s lead of more than an hour and a half, the biggest of the event. Martin Macik rounded out the event with a stage win in trucks, his third of the event; however, Macik remains a distant fourth to Ales Loprais, who added more than 14 minutes to his class lead over Martin Van Den Brink going into the break.
2023 Dakar Rally Stage 8 winners were as follows:
- Bikes: Ross Branch, 3:46:18
- Quads: Manuel Andujar, 4:56:05
- Cars: Sebastien Loeb, 3:34:24
- Lightweight Prototype: Joao Ferreira, 4:11:36
- SSV: Jeremias Gonzalez Ferioli, 4:16:18
- Truck: Martin Macik, 4:04:28
2023 Dakar Rally class leaders are as follows:
- Bikes: Skyler Howes, 30:34:16
- Quads: Alexandre Giroud, 37:57:04
- Cars: Nasser Al’Attiyah, 31:02:58
- Lightweight Prototype: Guillaume De Mevius, 36:03:09
- SSV: Rokas Baciuska, 37:33:31
- Truck: Ales Loprais, 36:30:58
Coverage of today’s Dakar Rally action will debut on Peacock at 6:30PM ET. Tomorrow’s rest day in Riyadh will see competitors regroup for six more days of action, but with only two of those stages offering more than 200 kilometers of special stages—not to mention the Empty Quarter Marathon stage on Thursday and Friday—competitors will need to be perfect to bring home top honors when all is said and done.