Dakar Rally 2023

The 45th edition of the world’s most famous rally traversed Saudi Arabia for the fourth consecutive year. 233 competitors covered almost 5,000 kilometer’s over 14 stages. This year proved to be a true extreme test, starting at Sea Camp on the shores of the Red Sea and ending at Dammam on the opposite side of the Arabian Peninsula…

Quick Question:

What’s the most successful manufacturer to ever compete in Dakar?
Nope, not Mitsubishi even with its incredible run with the Pajero Evo. No, not Kamaz either, even though the truck category basically belonged to them. Not Honda, Yamaha, BMW, Peugeot or any of the standout competitors throughout the Dakar’s long history. None of these brands have won 18 Dakar titles in a row, but KTM has. That’s against the industrial might and incredible engineering of some of the worlds giants, and the 22 combined wins they have across decades of competition. Honda eventually managed to end the orange streak in 2020, doubling down in 2021 and conceding the crown to Gas Gas in 2022.
This year they made sure and KTM’s Kevin Benavides won the final Stage 14 of the 2023 Dakar Rally to top the overall bike title results by 43 seconds over KTM’s Toby Price.

Benavides, who won the 2021 Dakar Rally on a Honda, finished the 136-kilometer special by just 55 seconds over Price. Think about that… The final margin of victory was less than a minute after nearly 44 hours, 30 minutes and 5,000 kilometers of racing. With a fifth in the final stage, Husqvarna Factory Racing’s American Skyler Howes finished third overall, just 5 minutes and 4 seconds behind Benavides. That’s top 3 for the KTM group. And those times are INSANE!

Admit it! You were glued to Social media and TV and all the gossip available everywhere at this year’s Dakar. Even while we were in the middle of nowhere on holiday, the moment that the phone showed even a glimmer of a signal, our team was on line and surfing to see what was going down with our SA riders.

Come to the desert and race they said?

Heat, Sand, Wind… all stuff you’d kind of expect? Yep, but while last year’s event was lambasted for being too easy, the Saudis showed this year’s crop of racers a thing or two. Rain, mud freezing cold and flooding… with stage 7 even cancelled thanks to the crazy weather. OUR RIDERS? Yup, Southern Africa sent a very impressive contingent… and hollee cow did each one of them put on a show!

Charan Moore:

Charan Moore blew everyone away by slaughtering the ‘Original By Motul’ class. Charan led most of the way but had to fight back after a rough tenth day dropped him back. Malle Moto riders are not allowed backup of any kind and must service their own machines out of small metal box. When he experienced gearbox issues, he took the penalty and lost his lead while exchanging his engine in a very soggy, muddy bivouac. But he was a man on a mission. He went on to win the class by a whopping 17 minute lead, winning the Original by Motul category. He came in 28th overall in motorcycles and 12th in the Rally 2 Class. That’s flippen impressive!

Kirsten Landman:

Who the heck is Maggie Thatcher? … Theres a new “Iron Lady” in town. Lady racers seem to come and go in SA, but there is one girl who has really flown the motorcycle flag for more years than we can care to remember. Kirsten made her Dakar debut in 2020. After a break from the event, she returned in 2023 to do the race unassisted, Malle Moto. She rode a smart, if occasionally exhausting and emotional ride to 68th overall and 12th in Malle Moto. If you aren’t impressed… well, you should be! “The toughest race of my life and I finished with a clean slate, not one penalty: Malle Moto: P12 Rally 2: P48 Women’s: P2 Overall: P71… This one is for you Mom, thank you for keeping me safe and giving me the strength to be the woman I am today”

A Hero on a Hero. Hero Motorsports, ever-smiling Kalahari Ferrari Ross Branch was flippen splendid and won two of the stages. He started Dakar 2023 brilliantly and ended fourth on day 2 before enduring a disastrous few days including… running out of fuel of all things and being left stranded in the desert to lose seven hours on Day 4. He went on to put up a massive fight and won two bike stages through week 2 and amazingly, brought it home in 26th overall. “So grateful to be healthy and in one piece after this super tough Dakar. It wasn’t the result we were looking for but we gave it our all every day. Thank you so much to the entire team for all the hard work and a huge thank you to all the people that support me. Looking forward to Abu Dhabi in a few weeks!!”

Michael Docherty:

What can we say, a consummate professional with a great Rally future. He took the Rookie bike win for 2023.   Mike led the R2 class early on, but a tough third day had him fall back. He fought back hard, three times challenging for overall day wins as he clawed back to an outstanding rookie victory.

Stuart Gregory and Stevan Wilken:

Both finished in fine style and kept information starved South Africans informed all along this epic Roller coaster of a ride.

Ever consistent Malle Moto man Stuart finished a career best 61st and 9th in Malle Moto at his third Dakar finish. “And that’s a Wrap!”… “Dakar 2023 done! Was super tough, had Flu for the last week of the race. Stoked to get third in veterans class. 9th in Original class. Thanks for all the support and messages and of course… to all of my sponsors. I’d love to have a race with a team and a proper place to sleep, but that can only be done with major sponsors and finding those is getting more difficult each year. Next time… warmer clothes. The training in Namibia really helped as did the correct tyre choice! I’m grateful to have been able to ride the race four times. My body is done for Malle Moto… but I’m open to options as a navigator… I’ve put feelers out…”

Stevan Wilken:

Stevan Wilken finished 69th from his best stage result in 56th on the final day, following a consistent race bar a painful day 8 tumble when he was bumped off his bike by a car. “A few years ago, I found myself in depression. A broken man. I needed something to live and work for again, so I decided to try get to the Dakar Rally. After two years of hard work, sacrifice, and rehabilitation I found myself traveling to 5 countries over the past 6 months in preparation for the Dakar Rally. After 9000km of racing over 15 days and overcoming near engine failure without oil, getting hit by a race car , helping a fellow competitor escape his burning bike and flash floods in the dessert I found myself at the finish line! Where do I start to thank everybody? Thank you to my sponsors the Plennegy group, all the SA supporters that believed in me, to my family and friends who helped with my kids while I was gone. To the sluggers group of SA riders that helped me every step of the way. I cannot thank everybody enough as I have not only managed live a lifelong dream but I have made so many new friends along the way.” Thank you!

Who the Heck is the Hero?

This is one group that is really making some waves in the rallye scene.
Hero MotoSports concluded its most successful campaign at Dakar yet by seeing all of its riders finish in the top-15 at the finale stage of the Dakar 2023. Dakar 2023 saw Hero MotoCorp’s Ross Branch bag two stage wins. They also claimed an overall top-10 finish with Franco Caimi finishing the race in 10th position. The Indian manufacturer is the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world. With a top-10 overall finish, two stage wins, and a stage podium, this is the Team’s best-ever performance at the Dakar. The team will next be seen in action at the second race of the World Rally Raid Championship, (W2RC), at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in end February 2023.

The Bike: Not a copy and paste

The Hero Rallye sport 450 bike is hand made. The frame is developed by Hero motorsports in conjunction with ‘Speedbrain’, an outfit from Germany. It’s developed specifically for stable, high speed rally use. Suspension is by WP. 52mm front suspension with 300mm travel and rear suspension with 320mm. A 33-litre split fuel tanks, (front and rear), are placed underneath the sleek seat. Tyres by Michelin. Braking is managed by 298mm petal discs up front and a 220mm petal disc at the rear. The engine is manufactured by Hero: The 450 RR is powered by a DOHC, liquid- and oil-cooled 449.5cc, single-cylinder engine. The limitation to the displacement is due to the 500cc displacement norm in Dakar. The six-speed gearbox gets a hydraulic clutch, with power being transferred to the rear wheel via an O-ring chain. The 450 RR comes with an Akrapovic titanium exhaust. The body itself is carbon-kevlar composite, while the chassis is a chromium-molybdenum steel frame. Tanks, plastics and Carbon fibre all made by Hero motorsports. We actually had a chat with Ross Branch about the bike on our You Tube channel, we’ll share that link on our social media pages.

The Tale of Results:

Dakar was a cruel mistress and claimed many top riders like 2022 winner Sam Sunderland and SA lad Bradley Cox on Day 1, Brabec on Day 2 and Barreda, Mattias Walkner and Klein in Week 2.

The bike race delivered seven different winners in the first seven days:
Price took the prologue, Ricky Brabec’s Honda Day 1, and Mason Klein’s KTM Day 2. Sanders, Joan Barreda, van Beveren and Luciano Benavides took Days 3, 4, 5 and 6 as the lead changed consistently. Day 7 was cancelled. Ross Branch bounced back to take Day 8. Luciano Benavides opened week 2 with a Tuesday win, and Branch took Wednesday. Luciano won again on Thursday. Ignacio Cornejo’s Honda won Friday and Kevin Benavides Saturday to start Sunday’s final stage just 12 seconds behind Price overall… He duly took the day to win his second Dakar and put KTM back after three years off the top step of the podium.


It wasn’t only the bikes that put on such a great show, Dakar 2023 proved a stunning success for South Africa!

Nasser Al Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel’s GR Hilux DKR T1+ stormed to their third Dakar victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing on Sunday as SA cars starred, taking the overall and two class wins. Nasser has moved up to second on the Dakar Rally all-time championship list with his fifth victory. The Qatar driver, who also won in 2011, ’15, ’19 and ’22, moved ahead of Ari Vatanen into second with his second consecutive championship. He trails only Stéphane Peterhansel, (eight), on the title list. In 2023, he won three stages and finished outside the top 10 only twice in two weeks
SA crews Giniel de Villiers and Denis Murphy, and Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings were fourth and fifth among five SA-built Toyotas in the top ten. “Winning Dakar is something memorable, but winning the world’s toughest race twice in a row is simply extraordinary,” says TGR Dakar team principal Glyn Hall.

Red-Lined cars took a T1.1 class 1-2, and Eben Basson and Abertus Pienaar won amongst the T3 SSV rookies. Then there’s the Redlined crew with ex ATV racer Brian Baragwanath at the helm. Brian and navigator Leonard Cremer held a comfortable T1.2 4×2 class lead in seventh overall going into the penultimate morning when they rolled and thought their race was over… It’s an insane story, they were towed in and their crew worked through the wet, muddy, stormy night at the Bivouac to get the car driveable for the final day. Guess what? They finished AND they towed Frenchmen Mathieu Serradori and navigator Loic Minaudier in, despite the odds and a hot car. Fortunately, it rained and somehow they got through quickly enough to see Mathieu steal back third in class and 12th overall, with Baragwanath 35th. All four Red-Lined cars that started the race finished in the class’s top five.


Yamaha dominates…Giroud restores French honour

In 2022, Manuel Andújar’s title defense campaign ended not with a whimper, but a bang, as the Argentinian crashed out of the race in stage 6. This time round, he was out for revenge on Alexandre Giroud, who had pounced on the opportunity to usurp his throne. Just a few weeks after the football World Cup final between France and Argentina, the duel between the last two winners of the Dakar doubled as a rematch, but once again, Messi’s man did not reach the goal. First, mechanical troubles in stage 3 sent him careening down the standings, and then his quad’s engine received a red card in stage 11.

Francisco Moreno Flores became Argentina’s lead striker, but time was not in his favour, as the Frenchman’s sizeable lead allowed him to play defensively. The Brazilian Marcelo Medeiros, racing to defend his honour after withdrawing from a stage and becoming ineligible for the overall, claimed four wins. Alexandre Giroud retained his crown. The Yamaha man, clad in blue, is the second rider to score back-to-back wins, after the Argentinian Alejandro Patronelli in 2011 and 2012.

Side-by-Sides: Can Am makes history

For the sixth straight year, CanAm reached the top of the podium at the Dakar Rally in both UTV categories. T3: Austin Jones and Seth Quintero T4: Eryk Goczal, Rokas Baciuska, Marek Goczal. With their wins, Austin Jones became the youngest Back-To-Back Champion in T3 and Eryk Goczal becomes the youngest Dakar Rally Winner in T4.

The South African duo of Geoff Minitt and Gerhard Snyman enjoyed their best Dakar finish in 12th overall. South Africa’s Eben Basson and Leander Pienaar joined the Dakar 2023 starting line-up in the G Rally Team OT3 in the lightweight prototype category. The national Class T1 champions were crowned lightweight prototype rookie winners, while the crew also ended the two-week long race in seventh position on the overall rankings. For a small nation, SA riders really do punch way above their weight!

Roll on Dakar 2024… what a cool event!


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