Dakar Rally 2023: Ricky Brabec wins stage 1

....Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah Finishes Sixth

Dakar Rally 2023: Ricky Brabec wins stage 1

Ricky Brabec won Stage 1 of the 2023 Dakar Rally to grab the overall lead in the motorcycles category by taking advantage of penalties to many rivals.

The Southern California native clocked a time of 4 hours, 14 minutes, 10 seconds aboard his No. 2 Monster Energy Honda CRF 450 Rally, beating Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Kevin Benavides of Argentina (4:14:29).

Daniel Sanders (fifth, 4:15:55) and Pablo Quintanilla (seventh, 4:16:17) initially finished ahead of Brabec, but each rider received 2-minute speeding penalties that knocked them off the podium.

“Goal No. 1 was not to open the stage,” Brabec said. “I feel quite well and confident after today, but I will just try to go day by day, keep pace and stay in the top 10. It’s going to be hard to be out of the lead — like we saw today — but we have to see how it goes until the rest day. Today was fairly simple. No stress. It was a great day!

It’s the first stage win in two years for Brabec, who became the first American champion of the Dakar Rally in 2020. He won three stages and the prologue while finishing second in 2021.

Californian Mason Klein of BAS world KTM finished sixth (4:14:49). Klein, who is making his second Dakar start after finishing ninth as a rookie, is 1 minute, 14 seconds behind Brabec.

“The navigation was super good,” said Klein, who rode cautiously after exceeding speed limits early in the stage. “I really enjoy this kind of riding. This is like what I have back home. … It was super good, and at least I know I can definitely win a stage in the future.”

Defending bikes winner Sam Sunderland, a two-time Dakar Rally winner, withdrew after crashing 52 kilometers into the special. Though conscious and fully mobile, the Brit was flown to Yanbu Hospital for further testing because of back pain.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s rally driver Nasser Saleh Al Attiyah came sixth in the first phase of the cars T1 category.

The defending champion, on board TOYOTA Hilux along with co-driver France’s Mathieu Baumel, covered the 368-km first phase race in Yanbu in 3.36.12 hours, 7.17 minutes behind first-placed Spanish Carlos Sainz.

The rally competitions are scheduled to continue Monday, with the 589-km second phase (Yanbu – Al Ula).

The race kicked off Dec. 31 and runs through Jan. 15 in Saudi Arabia, for the fourth year in a row, with the participation of 820 drivers and navigators, representing 68 different countries.