Huge South African interest in 8,500 km 15-day epic
Dakar officials have finally pulled the veil off details of the 45th edition 2023 event. Racing 4,706 km of a total distance of 8,549 km over 15 days from 31 December to 15 January 2023, 455 vehicles have entered Dakar 2023. They include 73 cars, 125 motorcycles, 19 quads, 93 UTVs and 56 trucks, as well as over 100 classic regularity entries.
There is much South African interest as ever among the Dakar cars for 2023. Toyota is once sending a strong three-car Gazoo Racing Hilux DKR T1+ team to Jeddah. 2022 winners, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah Mathieu Baumel are backed by former Dakar winner and reigning South African champion Giniel De Villiers with Dennis Murphy at his side, with South African young guns Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings in the third car.
There’s also a strong army of privately entered Made in South Africa Toyota Hiluxes in support. They include Saudi home hero Yazeed Al Rajhi and Michael Orr, Lithuanian entries Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza, and Benediktas Vanagas and Kuldar Sikk and Dutch crew Erik Van Loon and Sébastien Delaunay, among others.
South African Cars All Around at Dakar 2023
Talking about Made in SA, also based in Kyalami just around the corner from Gazoo Toyota HQ, Century Racing has no less than ten sleek C6s entered for Dakar 2023. They include two new Factory Team cars for Frenchmen Mathieu Serradori and Loic Minaudier, and South African heroes Brian Baragwanath and Leonard Cremer.
Four Spanish Astara Centurys will race on special clean petrol. Headed by former MotoGP star Carlos Checa and Marc Sola Terradellas and backed by former lady Dakar bike heroine Laia Sanz and Fabrizio Gerini. The other two cars will be driven by Oscar Fuertes Aldanon and Dodiego Vallejo, and Sergio Vallejo and Mario Gozalez Tome. Add Dutch Century crews, twins Tim and Tom Coronel, and Michel Kremer and Thomas De Bois. And French entries, Yannick and Valérie Panagiotis’ FJ and Antoine Galland and Yannick Demay’s ORC cars.
Also based close to the grand Prix Circuit at Kyalami, another South African rally raid race car maker, Red-Lined Motorsport has four entries in Dakar 2023. Dubai based Brit Thomas Bell and SA navigator Gerhard Schutte will return in a new TBR REVO. German Daniel Schröder has South African Ryan Bland reading the notes again in the PS Laser VK50 that shone so last year. Add two More Dutch Red-Lined teams, Daklapak VK56 pair Dave Klaassen and Tessa Rooth and Ronald Van Loon and Erik Lemmen’s Oase entry.
A Dakar 2023 win is big on Seb Loeb’s Bucket List
The Dakar pace up front will be hotter than ever. Nine-time world rally champion Sebastien Loeb and Fabian Lurquin lead the factory Bahrain Prodrive team alongside Argentine Orlando Terranova and Alex Haro Bravo. There are also a pair of strong privateer Hunters in the race for Frenchmen Guerlain Chicherit and Lithuanian pair Alex Winocq and Zala Vaidotas. Loeb came close last year. A Dakar win remains right on top of his bucket list.
To win Dakar 2023 however, one must first beat the mighty petrol electric hybrid Audi e-Tron quattros. Now with a year of development to add to their frightful 2022 pace, and three of the best crews out there, Audi will be strong at Dakar 2023. Mr. Dakar, Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger, WRC legend Carlos Sainz Sr. and Lucas Cruz and DTM hero Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergkvist will race the much improved Audis again this year.
Don’t forget the Dakar X-Raid Minis. They’re back with a few fast teams among them. Keep an eye on home hero Saudi Prince Al Qassimi Sheikh Khalid, Pole Jakub Przygonski and Armand Monleon and Argentine Sebastian Halpern and Bernardo Graue. Other interesting car entries include Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytk’s unique and ever-present Ford Raptor.
Six Works teams, strong Dakar 2023 SA bike entry
Moving on to two wheels, the Dakar bike competition is as keen as ever for 2023 with six factory teams and a strong army of South Africans out to impress. Defending champion Briton Sam Sunderland and Aussie GasGas Daniel Sanders are a good bet, but sister brand KTM will be out to regain the Dakar upper hand. All of its three riders, Aussie Toby Price, Austrian Matthias Walkner and Argentine Kevin Benavides have won Dakar before.
Benavides won for Honda two years ago and that team will be out for a repeat of that win too. They have Californian Ricky Brabec, Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort looking for better luck, Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren and Chileans Pablo Quintanilla and Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo in those red saddles.
Husqvarna factory riders American Skyler Howes and Argentine Luciano Benavides are backed by privateer South African sand specialist Michael Docherty. Multiple SA champion, Botswana’s Kalahari Ferrari Ross Branch leads the Hero attack alongside Portugal’s Joaquim Rodriguez, Argentine Franco Caimi and German Seb Bühler. Sherco has Portuguese rider Rui Gonçalves, Spaniard Lorenzo Santolino and Indian Harith Noah Koitha Veettil riding.
Cox, Moore, Landman, Gregory to fly SA flag
Besides Branch and Docherty, a strong South African privateer biker contingent includes Bradley Cox back aboard his Leader Tread Trademore BAS KTM after a mighty impressive debut last year. Charan Moore heads back following a strong 2022 maiden outing on his Husqvarna. Also keep an eye out for privateers Bolivian Daniel Nosiglia Jager, Joan Pedrero Garcia, US youngster Mason Klein, Martin Michek and Romain Dumontier.
South African lad heroine Kirsten Landman is back to go better on her debut 55th in 2020 on her KTM. Stuart Gregory is after another Malle Moto finish on his KTM after his third time lucky last year. And former rally driver Stevan Wilken makes his debut on a Husqvarna.
Moving on to the side-by-sides, Francisco Lopez Contardo Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre have been drafted into the Red Bull T3 squad alongside juniors Austin Jones and Gustavo Gugelmin. They take on Guillaume De Mevius and Francois Cazalet, Helder Rodrigues and Goncalo Reis and Ignacio Casale and Alvaro Leon. South Africans Geoff Minnitt and Gerhard Snyman return alongside rookie crew Eben Basson and Abertus Pienaar, while SA navigatrix Taye Perry reads notes for Yasmeen Koloccal.
8,500 km over fifteen crazy Dakar 2023 days
Rokas Baciuskaoriol and Vidal Montijano start as T4 favourites. They must deal with Gerard Farres Guell and Ortega Gil, Michal Goczal and Szymon Gospodarczyk, Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira and Maykel Justo. Keep an eye on local hero Yasir Seaidan, Molly Taylor and Andrew Short, bike refugee Xavier De Soultrait and Martin Bonnet and Mozambican crew Paulo Oliveira and Miguel Alberty.
Stefan Svitko, Alexandre Giroud, Manuel Andujar, Pablo Copetti and Giovanni Enrico will continue their eternal Dakar Quad battle. They will have the likes of the likes of Juraj Kamil Wisniewski, Laisvydas Kancius, Varga Francisco, Moreno Flores and Zdenek Tuma to keep an eye on.
Last but not least, Dakar’s trucks. The behemoth race looks rather different this year with the Russian army at war elsewhere. So, expect a different winner this year. That could from from Kees Koolen, Wouters De Graaff and Rozegaar; Martin Macik, Frantisek Tomasek and David Svanda and Janus van Kasteren, Darek Rodewald and Marcel Snijders’ Ivecos.
Unexplored Empty Quarter desert tracks
Other 2023 Dakar trucks to keep an eye on include Tatra teams Vaidotas Paskevicius, Tomas Guzauska and Slavomir Volkov and Tomas Vratny, Bartlomiej Bobajar. Add MAN crew Gerrit Zuurmond, Tjeerd Van Ballegooy and Kaas Kwakkel and Ales Loprais, Petr Pokora and Jaroslav Valr’s Praga. Plus, Omir Martinec, Pascal De Baar, Stefan Slootjes and Narcin Krüger in a Renault and Teruhito Sugawara, Hirokazu Somemiya and Yuji Mochizuki’s Hino.
Racing over 15 days from 31 December to 14 January, Dakar 2023 takes in some familiar routes around Al’ula, Ha’il or Riyadh, before four days of racing unexplored Empty Quarter desert tracks. Organisers once again promise sand and dunes as this year’s main Dakar ingredient.
Dakar fans can follow daily reports published as soon as possible after each day’s racing on http://www.motorsportmedia.co.za, while race highlights will be broadcast on DSTV Supersport 215 as usual every evening fro the start on 31 December through to Dakar 2023’s 14 December finish.