It is the highlight of a week of action in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. The Dakar Rally 2023 finally reached today the immense sea of dunes known as the Empty Quarter. With a special reddish-orange color, this is the largest continuous sand territory in the world – with its 1000 kilometers long and 500 km wide. This was the landscape to the marathon stage of this year’s race (stage 11), starting early this morning from Shaybah and arriving less than three hours later in the heart of this region.
This morning the counter of the Honda’s CRF 450 Rally marked 4,000 kilometers of specials right after the start, with 273 km of the selective section (added by a liaison of 151 km) to complete during the marathon stage. On the arrival our riders were their own in terms of assistance, since they won’t have any mechanics or external help.
Monster Energy Honda Team riders are fighting to evolve in the top standings. Today the best was Pablo Quintanilla, with a fifth place 2:54 minutes off the pace. This performance meant a step up in the overall standings to fourth position. Second was José Ignacio Cornejo, who finished in 14th place 8:13 minutes off the pace (8th overall). Adrien Van Beveren was opening the track and reached the end in 18th place, meaning a 5th place overall.
The second part of the marathon stage will take place tomorrow with the return to Shaybah on stage 12. Along the 185 km of this selective section (added by a liaison of 188 km) there will be a focus on the tactical acumen of the riders. With just three days to go in this Dakar Rally 2023 it is certainly time to attack in every dune!