The conditions were perfect, with the sun shining, hardly a breeze and temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celsius at the Yanbu Sea Camp on the official opening day of the 2023 Dakar Rally. Ahead of the seven X-raid developed Yamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype crews was a 13km Prologue representing a very different challenge than they will come across during the following 14 stages.
Fast and flowing, the Prologue took place on a track made from sand on the beach beside the bivouac. This meant the stage featured none of the usual challenging rally terrain and no real need for navigational skills, but it was still crucial as each crew’s finishing position dictates where they will start Sunday’s Stage 1 from. The short and circuit-like nature of the Prologue saw the top 46 riders separated by just two minutes and 12 seconds, with seemingly more to be lost at this point of the rally than to be gained.
Making his fourth appearance at the legendary rally, although his first in the T3 category since 2019, Porém (PRT) immediately showed his pace alongside Sanz (ARG). The duo used the extra power of the new YXZ1000R Prototype’s turbocharged engine to their advantage as they secured sixth position in nine minutes and four seconds, just 14 seconds behind the stage winner.
Three-time winner of the Quad class at Dakar (2014, 2018, 2020) Ignacio Casale (CHL) and his co-driver Alvaro Leon (CHL) belied their in-experience of racing in an SSV as they powered to thirteenth in a time of nine minutes and 11 seconds, just seven seconds further back from Porém.
Dakar debutant João Ferreira (PRT) and co-driver Filipe Palmeiro (PRT) showed no nerves at all, as they put in a solid performance to finish in 17th place with a time of nine minutes and 23 seconds, while Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA) also impressed during their first Dakar racing together in 20th place after finishing in nine minutes and 38 seconds.
The leading all-female Yamaha crew was Merce Marti (ESP), competing in her second Dakar, and her rookie co-driver Lisette Bakker (NLD), after they set a time of nine minutes and 33 seconds to secure 22nd place. Last year’s winners of the T3 Women’s Trophy, Annett Fischer (DEU) and Annie Seel (SWE), finished the stage in a solid 31st place with a time of nine minutes and 55 seconds.
Dakar Legend, and 13-time finisher Camelia Liparoti, alongside her co-driver Xavier Blanco, made a small mistake in one corner, which, due to the short nature of the stage, cost her some time. Still, she recovered superbly to finish in ten minutes and 27 seconds, just one minute and 37 seconds off the leader in 41st.
All seven X-Raid Yamaha Supported Team crews made it through the tricky Prologue without any significant issues before the rally begins in earnest on Monday, the 1st of January. Stage 1 will see the drivers take on 234km of liaisons and a 368km loop special stage featuring the more traditional sandy tracks, dunes, and rocky terrain associated with Dakar. Along with some tarmac sections, the special should suit the more experienced drivers and provide a much sterner test for the X-raid developed Yamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype.