Conquer the Dunes: Stage 12 Podium at Dakar Rally 2023

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The X-Raid Yamaha Supported Team’s Ignacio Casale and Alvaro Leon claimed their third consecutive podium as they relished the challenge of the never-ending dunes of the Empty Quarter by finishing second during the Stage 12 of the Dakar Rally.

Stage 12 was the second segment of the Empty Quarter marathon at the 45th edition of the Dakar and saw competitors take on some of the world’s largest and most demanding dunes. After camping overnight away from their teams without any assistance, the six X-raid developed Yamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototypes had a 21km liaison to the start of the special stage, before 185km of endless soft sand and mountainous dunes that proved a real challenge for all involved. Once out of the desert, they had another 167km liaison on the road back to their teams and the bivouac in Shaybel that they had left on Thursday morning.


Racing in his first Dakar in the T3 class, three-time winner of the Quad category and Dakar Legend Casale, along with his Chilean compatriot Leon made it a hattrick of podiums after they had finished the previous two stages in second and third, respectively. Battling for victory for the duration of the special, they finished just 29 seconds behind the winner, with a time of two hours, 17 minutes and 40 seconds. This result saw them retain their position as the leading Yamaha in the general classification in 10th and close the gap to their rivals in front.


Following their sensational victory in the first leg of the marathon stage, Portuguese Ricardo Porém and his rookie co-driver Augusto Sanz from Argentina recorded another top-six finish, just over four minutes behind their teammates. Their recent run of form over the last four specials, which includes their victory on Thursday, two fourth-placed finishes, and sixth on Stage 12, has seen them climb steadily up the general classification to 13th.


Consistency is vital in such a demanding event, and Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA) have shown incredible fortitude throughout the rally, despite an overheating issue that has seen them lose time over the last two stages. Once again, they managed the problem superbly during the Empty Quarter marathon without pushing too hard to finish in 28th, just over 52 minutes behind the stage winner. They remain 18th in the overall standings, but now with an almost two-hour cushion to the vehicle behind, with just two stages left.


The ruthless nature of the endless dunes in the Empty Quarter lived up to their reputation and punished the remaining X-raid Yamaha Supported Team crews. Dakar Legend Camelia Liparoti (ITA), competing in her 14th consecutive edition of the event, and co-driver Xavier Blanco (ESP) were hit by a technical issue on Stage 11 that saw them lose time but still complete the special.


Following repairs in the marathon bivouac, they started the stage only to stop after 3km. They received assistance from a T5 truck and several other competitors, but sadly, they could not resolve the issue and had to be towed from the special. This means they will not be classified as Dakar finishers and were given a time of 30 hours after receiving a penalty but will still be able to participate in the last two stages.


After making an incredible debut in the rally, which has seen them secure Yamaha and X-raid’s first podium and first victory in the T3 class, Dakar Rookie João Ferreira and his experienced co-driver Filipe Palmeiro were forced to miss the stage. After a sensational drive to second during Stage 11, they discovered a technical issue with their vehicle at the marathon bivouac. Sadly, they could not fix it without the usual assistance from the team.


Instead, they were towed by road to the bivouac in Shaybah but were already unable to be classified as official finishers after failing to complete Stage 3. All is not lost for the Portuguese duo as they will be able to continue to race in the last two stages in an effort to add to the 20 points they have already collected for the 2023 World Rally Raid Championship (W2RC), of which the Dakar forms the first round.


Ferreira and Palmeiro received the tow from their teammates, fellow W2RC competitors, and defending Women’s Trophy holders Annett Fischer (DEU) and Annie Seel (SWE). The all-female pairing were leading the standings to retain their title, but a crash on Stage 11 put paid to their chances. Although they managed to finish Thursday’s special, the damage to their SSV was deemed too much for the FIA to allow them to start on Friday. Unfortunately, after returning to the bivouac, despite the team’s best efforts to repair their SSV, they were not allowed to continue and were forced to withdraw from the race.


Having finished the gruelling Empty Quarter marathon, just two days of racing remain for the X-raid Yamaha Supported Team. Stage 13 involves a 9km liaison from the bivouac to the start of a 153km special. Once again, dunes are the order of the day, with some muddy trails and chott included, before the longest liaison of the rally, a 511km trip to the bivouac in Al Hofuf, ahead of the final stage on Sunday.


Camelia Liparoti

Yamaha Motor Europe ROV Racing Coordinator

“Today was a tough day for me personally, but once again, we scored another podium. Ignacio was so close to the win, and it shows how much we as a team are growing in confidence during this rally. Ricardo had another top-six finish, plus Ahmed just keeps producing strong drives, despite some issues. Unfortunately, it was a much more challenging day for the rest of the team. João had a technical issue that meant he could not start the stage, and Annett’s Stage 11 crash, with the damage it caused, means she is now out of the rally. I managed to start the stage but could not get past the 4km mark, and I was very disappointed not to finish the stage, but this is Dakar. We only have two stages left now, so we are focused on finishing the rally as strongly as possible.”


Dakar Rally 2023

Stage 12 Provisional Results

  1. I.Casale & A.Leon 2h 17m 40s +29s
  2. R.Porém & A.Sanz 2h 21m 42s +04m 31s
  3. A.Alkuwari Fahad & M.Lucchese 3h 09m 30s +52m 19s
  4. J.Ferreira & F.Palmeiro 30h 00m 00s + 27h 42m 49s
  5. C.Liparoti & X.Blanco 30h 00m 00s + 27h 42m 49s
  6. A.Fischer & A.Seel 30h 00m 00s + 27h 42m 49s


General Classification

  1. I.Casale & A.Leon 54h 48m 23s +7h 08m 36s
  2. R.Porém & A.Sanz 58h 30m 56s +10h 51m 09s
  3. A.Alkuwari Fahad & M.Lucchese 64h 22m 28s +10h 51m 09s
  4. A.Fischer & A.Seel 91h 26m 41s + 43h 46m 54s
  5. C.Liparoti & X.Blanco 92h 05h 52s +44h 26m 05s
  6. J.Ferreira & F.Palmeiro 120h 01m 07s +72h 21m 20s
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