Carlos Sainz, Audi Win Dakar Rally; American Ricky Brabec Wins in Motorcycles with Honda

Jackson Wheeler
7 Min Read


  • Carlos Sainz scored a record-setting win for Audi and American motorcyle rider Ricky Brabec took top honors on two wheels.
  • This year’s course ran in big desert loops for almost 5,000 miles.
  • This was the fifth Dakar to run entirely in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Rallymaster Carlos Sainz, driving for Audi, took top honors for his fourth time among four-wheeled cars at the Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia this week, while American rider Ricky Brabec won for Honda and captured his second Dakar following his triumph in 2020.

The win was the first for Audi at Dakar, and at 61 years old, Sainz became the oldest winner of the marathon rally.

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It was the 46th edition of the Dakar, a rally that historically ran from Paris, France, across the Sahara, to the port city of Dakar in Senegal. This was the fifth Dakar to run entirely in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This year’s course ran in big desert loops for almost 5,000 miles, from the ancient city of AlUla to the shores of the Red Sea and through oceans of sand dunes in Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter.

The rally lasted a grueling 13 days, with one rest day built into the schedule.

“There was a lot of time in the dunes, but I didn’t mind that as the challenge of going for many hours and kilometers made it a lot of fun,” Brabec said at the end of the 48-Hour Chrono stage on the raid’s sixth day. “Camping with the boys was a blast; we had a really good time last night, although we didn’t get much sleep.

“The stage was 100% dunes, but it was really cool and I hope they do something like this again. Rocks and open deserts are a bit better for me and with the dunes I really pushed, but I also played it safe towards the end as I didn’t want to ‘open’ stage 7. I’m in a good place going into next week, so let’s see what happens in the next six days.”

ricky brabec honda

Honda Racing

American Ricky Brabec took top honors in the desert.

What happened over those final six days was Brabec’s second Dakar win, riding a Honda CRF450.

Meanwhile, the veteran Sainz scored one for old racers everywhere.

Sainz, father of Ferrari F1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr., battled with Audi teammate and World Rally Championship all-time great Sébastien Loeb much of the rally. Loeb went on to finish third.

The win for Sainz was his fourth at the Dakar Rally, thanks partially to the back-up provided by his teammates Stéphane Peterhansel and Mattias Ekström, as the so-called “El Matador” finished with a lead of 1 hour and 20 minutes over Belgian Guillaume de Mevius.

Sainz drove an Audi RS Q e-tron with a “low direct-emission prototype with an electric drive, high-voltage battery and energy converter.” Sainz took the lead for good in the sixth stage.

polaris dakar rally

Polaris

SLR driver Xavier de Soultrait and co-pilot Martin Bonnet navigated their Polaris-engineered RZR Pro R Factory to secure two stage wins (plus the Prologue), five stop three finishes and three additional top five stage finishes.

In the SSV category—side-by-sides—Xavier de Soultrait won by what race officials called “the narrowest of margins,” having failed to win in his career on a motorbike but taking victory in a Polaris driving for the Sébastien Loeb Racing team.

“It’s truly the culmination of a dream,” said de Soultrait, SLR pilot and Dakar winner. “It’s hard for me to believe that we won this Dakar. I think we raced intelligently, we put pressure on, but we never overdrove. It was our first race with this new Polaris RZR Pro R Factory, and frankly, we couldn’t have asked for better.

“I am very happy to have shared this with Martin, we really made a great team, and I of course want to thank the entire Loeb Racing and Polaris Factory Racing team who prepared a perfect car for us; this victory is the fruition of all the teams’ efforts. It is also thanks to all our partners that we were able to achieve this.”

Martin Macík won in the truck category driving an IVAR-CZ, the first win for a Czech truck in 23 years. The country’s last win was by Karel Loprais, whose nephew Aleš Loprais finished as runner-up to Macík this time around.

In total, 239 vehicles reached the finish line in Yanbu, out of 340 that started. Finishers included 96 bikes (of 132 that started), seven quads (10 started), 55 Ultimate class cars (70 started), three Stock class cars (all three that started), 29 Challenger class cars (42 started), 28 SSVs (36 started) and 21 trucks (47 started).

The event was marred by the death of Spanish motorcycle rider Carles Falcon, who died from injuries suffered in a crash 278 miles into the rally’s second stage. Falcon was airlifted to a hospital in Al Duwadimi, then transferred to a hospital in Riyadh, and finally repatriated to Spain, race organizers said. He had finished the Dakar previously, in 2022.

carlos sains dakar rally

Audi Communications Motorsport

Carlos Sainz, right, accepts congratulations after his overall win at the Dakar Rally.

Headshot of Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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