A star-crossed 2023 Dakar Rally continued for Carlos Sainz as the three-time champion suffered another crash early in Stage 9.
Sainz was only 6 kilometers into the special when his RS Q e-tron E2 went end over end after landing from a dune jump. Sainz and navigator Lucas Cruz were able to scramble from underneath the vehicle and turned the car over with the help of some track workers.
But Sainz, 60, was in obvious discomfort with torso pain while waiting for further help. The Spaniard already had taken some major hits during this year’s Dakar Rally, including a hard crash with Audi teammate Stephane Peterhansel in Stage 6.
After initially being airlifted to a Riyadh hospital (which would have eliminated him from the rally), the Dakar Rally website reported that Sainz requested the medical helicopter turn around and return to the crash scene so he could wait with Cruz for an assistance vehicle.
Despite complaining earlier of the pain and being out of contention for the overall, Sainz had soldiered on through the desert. In Stage 7, he helped teammate Mattias Ekstrom by lending his suspension, and Sainz (whose son is a Formula One race winner for Ferrari) then finished third in Stage 8.
Carlos Sainz Jr. had been on hand to watch his father during this year’s rally.
Though Carlos Sainz’s shot at a fourth Dakar Rally championship essentially has ended, Nasser Al-Attiyah continued his push toward a fifth title with an eighth-place finish in Stage 9. The Toyota Gazoo Racing driver leads the overall standings by 1 hour, 21 minutes, 57 seconds over Lucas Mores of Overdrive Racing.
Having won the past two stages, Sebastien Loeb has charged to third overall, but the nine-time World Rally champion still trails Al-Attiyah by 1:43:08.
“We are working day by day, and today we did a really good job without any mistakes, without any problems,” Al-Attiyah said. “There was a lot of water. We need to take it day by day like this without any problems. We have a big gap now, and I hope to finish and to win this Dakar.”
Said Loeb: “It was a good drive. We got a bit lost in some places, some very complicated waypoints. The lines of the motorbikes were wrong so we had to turn around and to search for them. We had a good stage. We lost five to seven minutes with the navigation, but we could have lost much more.”
In the bike category, American Skyler Howes finished third Tuesday but is clinging to only a 3-second lead in the overall over Toby Price (who was second in a Stage 9 won by Luciano Benavides).
“I’ve been feeling really, really good; to win again is something amazing,” Benavides said after his second stage victory. “To be honest, today was really, really dangerous. You had to take care all the time. I was behind Skyler after about 100 km and from then on I rode with him. He did a really good job and I stayed on his wheel. It was really dangerous with many rocks. It was really, really tricky.”
Howes, Benavides’ Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate, said he was cautious after seeing veteran Joan Barreda Bort injured in a crash (Bort was airlifted because of back pain).
“The stage today was pretty tricky,” Howes said. “It was really full of lots of stones and deep with mud, so it was really tricky to navigate through there. Once we got out of the dunes and stones and onto the faster tracks, me and Luciano just put the charge on, because I know we’d lost some minutes in there. I was thinking that I’d lost a lot more time than I did, but we did a really good job from the refueling all the way into the finish of the special. It was a demanding stage for sure with lots of water. It was super crazy. We were going through giant rivers in the middle of the desert.”
Mason Klein fell to sixth overall (18:42 behind) after the American rider lost his roadbook during a fall early in the special.
“I think I crashed somewhere near 300 kilometers,” Klein said. “I just kind of don’t remember what happened. I remember that I ran into someone. It’s just my arm that kind of hurts, so we’ve wrapped it up. My roadbook fell out of my vest at the beginning of the race. For the second half, I felt like for the whole time we were going slowly because I wasn’t doing any navigating. I feel OK, but I think I lost my helmet visor. It was frustrating.”
In T3 light prototypes, Guillaume De Mevius finished second and widened his overall lead over American drivers Austin Jones (12 minutes, 43 seconds behind) and Seth Quintero (1:13:12) of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA.
NBC Sports’ daily 6:30 p.m. ET coverage of the 2023 Dakar Rally will continue tonight on Peacock’s NBC Sports channel.
NEXT: The 10th stage will be among the shortest, covering 623 kilometers (114 against the clock in the special) from Haradh to Shaybah as the rally enters the depths of Empty Quarter with a long liaison of road riding.
Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 9 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:
Stage 9 winner: Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 3:07:24
General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 34:19:20; 2. Lucas Moraes (BRA), Overdrive Racing, 35:41:17; 3. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Xtreme, 36:02:28.
Stage 9 winner: Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 3:18:44
General rankings: 1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna Factory Racing, 33:55:57; 2. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 33:56:00; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 34:01:06. U.S. notables: 6. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM Racing Team, 34:14:39; 24. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 37:37:48; 47. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 44:06:14; 60. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 46:18:26; 90. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 61:36:48; 93. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 63:36:23. Awaiting classification after Stage 9: 96. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 58:06:21; 103. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 145:36:08; 104. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 150:06:53. Withdrawal (excluded): Kyle McCoy (USA), American Rally Originals. Withdrew: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49.
Stage 9 winner: Laisvydas Kancius (LTU), Story Racing S.R.O., 4:20:14
General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 42:25:05; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 43:44:44; 3. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 44:06:14.
T3 light prototype
Stage 9 winner: David Zille (ARG), South Racing Can-Am, 3:38:00
General rankings: 1. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 39:41:11; 2. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 39:53:54; 3. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 40:54:23. U.S. notable: 24. Mitch Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 64:16:24.
Stage 9 winner: Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 3:42:20
General rankings: 1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Team, 41:16:37; 2. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 41:21:39; 3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), South Racing Can-Am, 41:25:54.
Stage 9 winner: Janus Van Kasteren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 3:40:52
General rankings: 1. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 40:22:59; 2. Janus Van Kastren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy Iveco, 40:49:53; 3. Martin Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy Iveco, 41:09:07.
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