The final stage of the 45th edition of the Dakar saw competitors leave the final bivouac in Al-Hofuf and drive 167km to the start of the timed special. Waiting for them was a 167km sprint along the beachfront before a 100km liaison to the podium in Dammam.
The 2023 Dakar has been epic on every front, from the incredible scenery, challenging terrain and punishing dunes to the torrential rain and thunderstorms that have made the stages even more demanding. Starting at the Yanbu Sea Camp on the 31st of December, the rally has traversed from the west to the east coast of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with over 4,000km of timed specials and two marathon stages adding to its reputation as the most challenging rally in the world.
The YXZ1000R Dakar Project started in 2021, with Camelia Liparoti (ITA) and Annett Fischer (DEU) finishing 2nd overall in the T3.1 class before the Italian followed that up with sixth overall alongside her new co-driver Xavier Blanco (ESP) in 2022.
This year’s edition of the rally saw the introduction of the all-new turbocharged version of the 995cc triple-cylinder side-by-side vehicle. Despite this being one of the toughest Dakar’s in recent memory, the new SSV passed the test with flying colours and ensured it would be a year to remember for Yamaha and the X-raid team.
Displaying its true racing potential, the YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype secured two stage victories and a further eight podiums, including a historic 1-2-3 on Stage 11. Improving every day as the team and crews understood the machine more and more, the final stage proved to be another highlight, with four of the remaining five X-raid crews finishing inside the top ten.
The Chilean pairing of Dakar Legend and three-time winner of the Quad category, Ignacio Casale, and his co-driver Alvaro Leon continued their incredible late run of form to secure their fifth podium in a row. Agonisingly close to the stage victory on several occasions, they missed out on the win by just 58 seconds after another brilliant drive.
While they may not have claimed the stage victory they were seeking, their time of one hour, 18 minutes and 59 seconds meant they completed the Dakar 10th in the T3 Lightweight Prototype class general classification and were 44th overall in the Car category.
After showing incredible consistency throughout the rally, Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA) produced a stunning final stage, blasting along the beach to complete the special in seventh place, just over four minutes behind the winner. This saw the duo, racing in their first Dakar together, achieve their pre-race target of a top-20 finish by ending the rally in an impressive 17th overall.
Just nine seconds behind their teammates were Dakar Rookie João Ferreira (PRT) and his co-driver Filipe Palmeiro (PRT). The pairing created history when they claimed victory on stage 8, not only achieving the first win for Yamaha and X-raid in the T3 class but also making the Japanese constructor the first in history to win in both the Car and Bike categories.
Along with their victory, the Portuguese crew also recorded a further three podiums on their way to finishing in 36th overall, establishing them as potential Dakar stars of the future. Despite not being classified as official finishers after they failed to complete stages 3 and 12, they managed to amass 28 points in the World Rally Raid Championship, which sees them occupy sixth in the standings after the first round.
Competing in his fourth Dakar, Portuguese Ricardo Porém and Argentinean rookie co-driver Augusto Sanz completed the top ten on Stage 14, just over six minutes behind the leading driver. Routinely finishing in the top six, they also claimed a stage victory on the first leg of the Empty Quarter marathon, leading a YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype podium lockout. Their strong results meant the pairing ended the Dakar 12th in the T3 general classification and 58th overall in the Car category.
Dakar Legend Liparoti, competing in her 14th consecutive edition of the rally, and co-driver Blanco, had been enjoying another strong rally when technical issues, unfortunately, struck them during Stages 12 and 13 and saw them unable to finish both specials. This meant they could not be classified as official finishers. Still, the Italian showed her indomitable spirit to fight back and end the final stage in 27th, completing the rally 34th in the general classification.
It was a more challenging Dakar for the 2022 Women’s Trophy winners, Annett Fischer (DEU) and Annie Seel (SWE), who were battling in the top fifteen overall before a crash on Stage 11 saw their Dakar come to a premature end. Merce Marti (ESP) and Lisette Bakker (NLD) were another crew to fall foul of the demanding nature of the rally, as an accident on the first stage meant they were no longer able to continue.
There was even more success for Yamaha in the Quad category as Alexandre Giroud (FRA) won four stages on the way to securing back-to-back titles, becoming only the second rider to defend his crown in that class since Argentine Alejandro Patronelli in 2011-2012. That means that the manufacturer has now lifted the title in the Quad class every year since its inception in 2009.