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Loeb Takes Fifth Stage Win of 2023 Dakar Rally, Two Americans Lead as Empty Quarter Marathon Begins

Could Sebastien Loeb steal his first-ever Dakar Rally overall win in 2023 after all? After a puncture-laden start to the event put the FIA World Rally Championship icon on the back foot for much of the race, he’s now ripped off four consecutive stage wins, and a personal-best five in total, after winning today’s Stage 11 to start the Empty Quarter Marathon.

DAK A S O G Soldano DPPI

77 BENAVIDES Luciano (arg), Husqvarna Factory Racing, Husqvarna, Moto, FIM W2RC, action during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2023 between Shaybah and Empty Quarter Marathon, on January 12, 2023 in Empty Quarter Marathon, Saudi Arabia

Of course, Loeb remains more than an hour and a half behind overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah, and still has to surpass rookie Lucas Moraes in second, but stranger things—and larger swings—have happened. Such was the case in T3 Lightweight Prototype, where AJ Jones went from about eight minutes behind Guillaume De Mevius for the overall lead, to having both the top spot and 55 minutes in hand on Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team teammate Seth Quintero. Top five finishes for both on stage today, as well as mechanical problems for De Mevius about 40 kilometers into today’s 275-kilometer special stage route, led to the massive shift in fortunes.

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328 POREM Ricardo (prt), SANZ Agusto (arg), X-Raid Yamaha Supported Team, Yamaha, SSV, action during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2023 between Shaybah and Empty Quarter Marathon, on January 12, 2023 in Empty Quarter Marathon, Saudi Arabia

The motorcycle race also broke in an American’s favor as Skyler Howes regained the overall lead from Kevin Benavides. It was the other Benavides brother, Luciano, who took his third stage victory of the event earlier today, but Howes’ fourth place finish on stage to Kevin Benavides’ 10th has Howes back on top with a 28-second advantage over Toby Price.

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151 GIROUD Alexandre (fra), Yamaha Racing – SMX – Drag’on, Yamaha, Quad, action during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2023 between Shaybah and Empty Quarter Marathon, on January 12, 2023 in Empty Quarter Marathon, Saudi Arabia

Marcelo Medeiros won his second straight stage on the quads, while Martin Van Den Brink took top honors in the trucks; Van Den Brink now trails Janus Van Kasteren by just 1:12 for the overall lead, but Alexandre Giroud is still well over an hour atop the quad standings. Rokas Baciuska rounded out the stage winners in T4 SSV, slightly padding his lead on Eryk and Marek Goczal as Stage 10 winner Gerard Farres dropped to more than an hour out of the lead.

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36 MARTINY Jerome (fra), Team Dumontier Racing, Husqvarna, Moto, action during the Stage 11 of the Dakar 2023 between Shaybah and Empty Quarter Marathon, on January 12, 2023 in Empty Quarter Marathon, Saudi Arabia

2023 Dakar Rally Stage 11 winners were as follows:

  • Bikes: Luciano Benavides, 2:57:59
  • Quads: Marcelo Medeiros, 3:50:47
  • Cars: Sebastien Loeb, 2:56:14
  • Lightweight Prototype: Ricardo Porem, 3:19:11
  • SSV: Rokas Baciuska, 3:25:13
  • Truck: Martin Van Den Brink, 3:39:52

2023 Dakar Rally class leaders are as follows:

  • Bikes: Skyler Howes, 38:47:43
  • Quads: Alexandre Giroud, 48:31:56
  • Cars: Nasser Al’Attiyah, 39:16:33
  • Lightweight Prototype: AJ Jones, 45:19:15
  • SSV: Rokas Baciuska, 46:42:42
  • Truck: Janus Van Kasteren, 47:02:12

Coverage of today’s Dakar Rally action will debut on Peacock at 6:30PM ET. Tomorrow’s Stage 12 completes the Empty Quarter Marathon, returning racers to their support crews in Shaybah after 185 kilometers of special stage that will see plenty of dunes once again.

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.

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