Dakar Rally 2023, Prologue: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge; Seth Quintero second in T3

TOPSHOT-AUTO-MOTO-RALLY-DAKAR-PROLOGUE
TOPSHOT-AUTO-MOTO-RALLY-DAKAR-PROLOGUE

Former DTM champion Mattias Ekstrom led a solid prologue for Audi, which took three of the top six positions in the prologue of the 2023 Dakar Rally.

Ekstrom finished the 8-mile opening time trial in 8 minutes, 1 second ahead of rally legend Sebastien Loeb’s Bahrain Raid Xtreme Hunter.

“It’s always nice to start the rally with a good prologue and track position is always good,” Ekstrom said. “We had no mistakes, the car felt good and we had a good flow from start to end.”

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Stephane Peterhansel finished third in his Team Audi RS Q-Etron E2, 11 seconds off Ekstrom’s pace. Defending Dakar Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah was 12 seconds behind in fourth with his Gazoo Racing Toyota.

Three-time Dakar Rally winner Carlos Sainz was 14 seconds behind in sixth for Team Audi, which made its Dakar debut last year with a hybrid electrical engine.

It was a much better start than the 2022 Dakar Rally for Audi, which struggled with technical and mechanical problems the first week. Last year, it took until Stage 8 for Audi’s first victory (also with Peterhansel).

HOW TO WATCH: Dakar Rally 2023 schedule on NBC Sports’ Peacock

Sainz complained last year the Audi RS Q e-tron was underpowered because of FIA regulations, and the Spaniard has been unhappy again this year with new weight regulations that make the car heavier than its internal combustion competitors.

In the bikes division, Toby Price won the prologue. A contingent of a dozen Americans was led by 2020 champion Ricky Brabec in 11th.

In the T3 light prototype category, Seth Quintero finished second and nearly picked up where he left off last year (when he won a record 12 stages and 10 consecutive).

NBC Sports’ daily 6:30 p.m. ET coverage on Peacock of the 2023 Dakar Rally will begin Jan. 1.

Here are the top three in each category after the prologue:

Car

1. Mattias Ekstrom (SWE), Team Audi Sport, 8:00; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 8:01; 3. Stephane Peterhansel (FRA), Team Audi Sport, 8:11.

Bike

1. Toby Price (AUS), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 8:22; 2. Daniel Sanders (AUS), Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, 8:23; 3. Ross Branch (BWA) 8:31. U.S. notables: 10. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 8:36; 18. Mason Klein, BAS world KTM, 8:42; 39. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 9:01; 46. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 9:07; 56. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 9:18; 74. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 9:27; 103. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 10:01; 104. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 10:01; 105. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 10:02; 119. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 10:19; 133. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 11:01; 135. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 11:02.

Quad

1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 8:50; 2. Marcelo Medeiros (BRA), Taguatur Racing, 8:51; 3. Daniel Vila Vaques (ESP) 9:02. U.S. notable: 15. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 9:18.

T3 Light prototype

1. Cristina Guiterrez Herrero (ESP), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing, 8:49; 2. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior team, 8:51; 3. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 8:53. U.S. notables: 4. Mitchell Guthrie, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 8:55; 12. Austin Jones, Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 9:11;

T4 SSV

1. Rokas Baciuska (LTU), Red Bull Can-Am Factory Racing, 9:06; 2. Cristiano Batista (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 9:08; 3. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 9:14.

Truck

1. Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology Team, 9:43; 2. Mitchel Van Den Brink (NLD), Eurol Team De Rooy, 9:48; 3. Janus Van Kasteren (NLD), Boss Machinery Team De Rooy, 9:49.

Dakar Rally 2023, Prologue: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge; Seth Quintero second in T3 originally appeared on NBCSports.com