Led by defending SSV champ Austin Jones, U.S. contenders charge into 2023 Dakar Rally
More than two dozen Americans will be racing in the 2023 Dakar Rally, including two of the three U.S. champions in the prestigious rally raid event.
Austin Jones will return after winning a T4 championship in the SSV category of the off-road endurance racing classic’s 45th edition.
This will be the fourth consecutive trip to Saudi Arabia for the Dakar Rally, which has a longer, more adventurous route that will cover nearly 8,000 kilometers this year.
HOW TO WATCH THE DAKAR RALLY: Nightly coverage on Peacock starting Jan. 1
There are 14 stages (up two from 2022) and nearly 5,000 kilometers of “specials” (which involve racing against the clock) – the longest competitive distance since 2014. The grueling route will include four days in the Empty Quarter, the vast desert that will be explored with a marathon stage.
Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who became the first American to win a Dakar Rally championship in 2020 and finished second in ‘21, leads a stacked U.S. field in the bikes division.
Mason Klein (ninth last year) and Skyler Howes also should be in championship contention, and Petr Vlcek, Jacob Argubright, Kyle McCoy, Paul Neff, David Pearson, James Pearson, Morrison Hart and Lawrence Ace Nilson also are on the entry list as U.S. representatives.
California native Seth Quintero will return in the lightweight prototype category after winning a record 12 stages (including 10 consecutive) in the 2022 Dakar Rally. In a new pairing of the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team and Can-Am, Quintero and Jones (who also goes by “A.J.”) will be T3 teammates racing Maverick X3s that are built by South Racing (which won the T4 championship with Jones last year).
American Mitch Guthrie also is racing for the Red Bull Junior Team (with U.S. co-driver/navigator Kellon Walch).
Supercross and motocross veteran Andrew Short, who finished eighth in bikes last year, will return in a new role this year as a navigator in the T4 division.
The Americans will face some new wrinkles in the 2023 Dakar Rally. The event will feature the debut of digital roadbooks in all categories, and stage winners will be granted time compensation for the first time, putting them at less of a disadvantage when starting the next stage.
The 2023 Dakar Rally will begin with an 11-kilometer special prologue Dec. 31 that will set the starting order for the opening stage.
Daily coverage of the Dakar Rally, including updates, interviews and feature, will be available at 6:30 p.m. ET on Peacock starting Jan. 1. NBC Sports digital platforms also will have Dakar coverage.