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Dakar Rally 2023, Stage 3: Ricky Brabec withdraws after being injured in crash

Relive all the action from Stage 3 of the 2023 Dakar Rally, which proved treacherous for key contenders in the premier cars and bikes categories.

Stage 3 of the 2023 Dakar Rally took an early toll on championship contenders in the premier cars and bikes categories.

Ricky Brabec, the first American to win the Dakar Rally in 2020, withdrew from the event after crashing at the 274th of 447 kilometers in the special. After being attended to by the event medical team, Dakar Rally officials reported that Brabec was transported to the hospital because of neck pain.

In a release, Honda Racing said the medical staff at the Ha’Il hospital confirmed Brabec was in good condition with no fractures. He will remain under observation for another 24 hours as a precaution.

It was a disappointing ending for the Monster Energy Honda CRF 450 Rally rider, who had led after winning Stage 1 and had solid showings in the prologue and Stage 2.

The Southern California native, who also finished second in the 2021 event, became the second past Dakar Rally bikes champion to withdraw because of a crash. Defending champion Sam Sunderland, a two-time Dakar winner, withdrew in Stage 1 after crashing 52 kilometers into the special. Sunderland also was airlifted to a hospital and was diagnosed with a broken shoulder blade and concussion.

Brabec’s exit put a damper on a strong start for American riders, who held three of the top seven overall positions through the first three days.

Mason Klein, who had taken the overall lead with a Stage 2 win, and Skyler Howes remained in strong contention with podium finishes Tuesday behind Stage 3 winner Daniel Sanders.

Klein, 21, finished second in the stage and holds a 1-minute, 48-second lead over Sanders.

“I got off to a pretty good start and felt really motivated to give it a lot of gas today,” said Klein, who is making only his second Dakar Rally start. “Really happy I made it in without getting passed. Super awesome day.

“It was really good to open. I enjoyed every second of it. It’s so nice making all your own decisions. I don’t know if I’ve ever navigated any better. I love opening. I feel I make less mistakes.”

Howes was thrilled to move into third overall with a third-place stage finish.

“Honestly, this is probably one of the best days, the most fun days I’ve ever had on a motorcycle,” Howes said. “I can’t even describe how incredible the mountains and the track we went on today was easily the best time I’ve had a on dirt bike. It was so much fun. The dirt has been wet all day.

“You go through these giant canyons, the clouds are real low, and the size of the mountains are so insane. This place is so beautiful. It’s one of my favorite stages and favorite day on a motorcycle by far. So much fun.”

Howes praised the performance of Klein while also lamenting the misfortune for Brabec.

“Mason definitely proved himself to be a Rally GP rider today,” Howes said. “He did an incredible job opening the stage. He opened from start to finish. I wanted to take something off his shoulders and open some of the stage, but I messed up and he got the task of opening the whole stage. He rarely made a mistake and did a really good job, so I’m super proud of the kid.

“It’s really tough for Ricky. This race has already proven itself to be a real challenge. It’s super unfortunate for him, but I hear that he’s OK, which is the most important part. It’s always tough to have a crash. You never want to see anyone go out like that. I’m glad that he’s OK, but, man, it really sucks.”

The top two contenders in cars entering Stage 3 also faced challenges Tuesday. Three-time Dakar champion Carlos Sainz endured a setback that sidelined his Audi for 30 minutes, and Stage 2 winner (and defending Dakar Rally champion) Nasser Al-Attiyah also struggled and lost time on a treacherous course.

With a 13th-place finish, Al-Attiyah still managed to take the overall lead by more than 13 minutes. Sainz finished 43rd in the stage and lost more than an hour, falling from the overall lead to eighth.

Dakar Rally officials halted bike riders at Checkpoint 2 (after 335 km) and Checkpoint 3 (after 377 km) because “the degradation in weather conditions has made it no longer possible for the organizers to guarantee the best safety conditions for the competitors.”

According to the Dakar Rally website, times will be maintained for the riders who have reached the finishing line. For those yet to finish, calculations would be made “in accordance with the average accomplished on the first part of the stage in order to attribute a finishing time.”

Teams in the car and track categories also were halted at Checkpoint 3. Dakar Rally officials said rankings for the day would be established from the times at this point.

“For me, it was hard,” Al-Attiyah said. “We had two flat tires and then 300 km, we can not really drive, but we are here now. I think the organization made it better safe to not finish the stage from the ice and the rain.”

Americans also excelled despite conditions in the T3 lightweight prototype category. Austin “A.J.” Jones earned the Stage 3 victory while Red Bull Off-Road Junior teammate Seth Quintero placed second to take the overall lead. Francisco Lopez Cortardo fell from first to sixth overall after getting caught in a flash flood and finishing nearly 90 minutes off the lead in 33rd.

NBC Sports’ daily 6:30 p.m. ET coverage of the 2023 Dakar Rally will continue tonight on Peacock’s NBC Sports channel.

NEXT: Stage 4 of the 2023 Dakar Rally will cover 573 kilometers (including 425 km against the clock in the special) in a loop stage around Ha’il that will feature several enormous sand dunes (over 100 km) and tricky navigation.

Here are the stage winners and the top three in the overall rankings for each category (along with U.S. notables) after Stage 3 of the 2023 Dakar Rally:


Stage 3 winner: Guerlain Chicherit (FRA), GCK Motorsport, 3:22:59.

General rankings: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 12:20:35; 2. Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU), Overdrive Racing, 12:33:54; 3. Simon Vitse (FRA), MD Rally, 12:45:28.


Stage 3 winner: Daniel Sanders (AUS), Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, 4:24:15.

General rankings: 1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing, 14:05:38; 2. Mason Klein (USA), BAS world KTM, 14:09:42; 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), 14:12:31. U.S. notables: 4. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 14:14:13; 35. Jacob Argubright, Duust Co Rally Team, 16:20:20; 51. Pablo Copetti, Del Amo Motorsports, 17:46:05; 66. Paul Neff, American Rally Originals, 18:34:33; 72. Petr Vlcek, Detyens Racing, 18:47:31; 81. Kyle McCoy, American Rally Originals, 19:19:51; 82. David Pearson, American Rally Originals, 19:35:08; 107. Lawrence Ace Nilson, Duust Rally Team, 21:38:18; 115. James Pearson, American Rally Originals, 23:00:22; 120. Morrison Hart, American Rally Originals, 26:08:45. Withdrew: Ricky Brabec (USA), Monster Energy Honda, 9:42:49).


Stage 3 winner: Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 6:21:06.

General rankings: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing, 16:57:18; 2. Francisco Moreno Flores (ARG), Dragon, 17:32:49; 3.Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports, 17:46:05.

T3 light prototype

Stage 3 winner: Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:05:03.

General rankings: 1. Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 13:52:06; 2. Guillaume De Mevius (BEL), Grally Team, 13:53:07. 3. Mitch Guthrie (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 13:57:52; 4. Austin “A.J.” Jones (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 9:53:58.


Stage 3 winner: Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 4:20:45.

General rankings: 1. Marek Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 14:28:03; 2. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 14:39:39; 3. Eryk Goczal (POL), Energylandia Rally Team, 15:01:18.


Stage 3 winner: Martin Macik (CZE), MM Technology, 4:03:03.

1. Ales Loprais (CZE), Instaforex Loprais Praga, 13:54:36; 2. Jaroslav Valtr (CZE), Tatra Bucgyra ZM Racing, 14:03:51; 3. Janus Van Kasteren (NLD), Boss Machinter Team De Rooy Iveco, 14:20:04.


STAGE 1: Ricky Brabec opens with victory; Carlos Sainz keeps Audi on top

STAGE 2: Mason Klein continues U.S. surge in bikes

PROLOGUE: Mattias Ekstrom leads Audi charge

CARRYING THE FLAG: U.S. drivers and riders in the 2023 Dakar Rally