The Swede Mattias Ekstrom gave the first victory to the Audi hybrid car in the 2023 Dakar Rally by winning the prologue, in which his teammate Carlos Sainz was sixth at 14 seconds. Ekstrom, who scored a stage in the 2022 edition, in which he was ninth overall, snatched the victory by just one second from Frenchman Sebastien Loeb (Bahrain) after having stopped the clock in exactly eight minutes.
The Alsatian, nine times world rally champion, faces his seventh Dakar and put ten seconds (08:01) behind Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota), winner of four editions of the rally, who began his title defense with a fourth place after opening the track in the forty-fifth edition of the endurance test.
Between the two stood, with one second less than Al-Attiyah, the French Stéphane Peterhansel (Audi), 'Monsieur Dakar', fourteen times rally champion, six of them on a motorcycle.
The other hybrid Audi, that of Madrid's Carlos Sainz (Audi) was in sixth position, just three seconds off the podium, two behind Al-Attiyah and one behind fifth, the Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit (GCK). Audi thus signed a better prologue than Toyota, which only placed Al-Attiyah in the top five, with South African Henk Lategan tenth.
The top ten classified, including the Argentine Orlando Terranova (Bahrain), will be able to choose, in reverse order, their position at the start of the first stage. The Spanish Laia Sanz (Astara), who faces her second Dakar in cars -thirteenth in total-, signed a time of 08:49 in the prologue.
For his part, the Australian Toby Price ((KTM) took the prologue of the forty-fifth edition of the Dakar Rally, in which the Spanish Joan Barreda (Honda) was fourth with the same time as the third classified. Price, winner in 2016 and 2019, he stopped the clock at 08:22, one second less than that of his compatriot Daniel Sanders (GasGas), winner of two stages in the previous edition.
The podium was completed by the Botswana rider Ross Branch (Hero), with the same time (08:31) as Joan Barreda from Castellón, who was left out of the official Honda lineup but was the best rider of the Japanese brand, and Argentine Kevin Benavides (KTM).
On the first day of his thirteenth Dakar, the Spaniard beat the time of Valencian Tosha Schareina (KTM), second best rookie in the previous edition and winner of the series motorcycle marathon category, by 11 seconds, and signed 16 seconds less than the Salamanca Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco).
The defending champion, the British Sam Sunderland (GasGas), began his title defense with tenth position in the prologue (08:35), 13 seconds behind Price. The Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero) was sixth, just one second from the podium.
At 06:00 (CET), two more in Saudi Arabia, the Dakar for motorcycles began, with Mathieu Troquet, number 137, opening the track. Behind him, the Spanish rookies Rubén Saldaña, who is fulfilling the 41-year-old dream he had since he was a child, Javier San José, a commercial airline pilot, and Sergio Vaquero.
Only three women participate on motorcycles, including the Spanish Sandra Gómez, from Cercedilla (Madrid), superenduro world champion in 2016, who is facing her second Dakar after having finished the previous one as the second best female behind the Dutch Mirjam Pol, who appears for the tenth time in the rally and took six seconds from him in the prologue. South African Kirsten Landman completes the roster.
References to football and the World Cup won by Argentina were not lacking at the departure ceremony: Stefano Caimi appeared with the albiceleste elastic with Lionel Messi's 10 before starting the adventure.