Ekstrom puts Audi on top in Dakar Prologue

Mattias Ekstrom won the Dakar Prologue

Mattias Ekstrom won the Dakar Prologue

Mattias Ekstrom has set the fastest time in the Prologue at the 2023 Dakar Rally in his Audi RS Q e-tron hybrid.

On a 13km course around the Sea Camp, from which competitors will set off for the first stage proper, the Swede set a time of exactly eight minutes.

Ekstrom will therefore have first pick of starting order for that 367km special given he prevailed by a margin of a single second over Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sebastien Loeb (Prodrive Hunter).

The nine-time World Rally Champion is still chasing a Dakar crown after finishing runner-up both last year and in 2017, and was the only driver standing between a Team Audi Sport one-two on the Prologue for the 2023 edition.

Ekstrom had been last onto the course of the three Audi drivers and would overhaul both Loeb and team-mate Stephane Peterhansel, who ended up third at 11 seconds off the pace.

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, who is vying for a second Dakar crown in a row and fifth in total, set the fourth-fastest time in the Prologue at another second off the pace in the #200 Hilux.

“Finishing behind the trio is not a bad result from the perspective of fighting for the stage win tomorrow, which would come in handy to open Stage 2 right before the key third stage,” said the Qatari.

Guerlain Chicherit rounded out the top five in a GCK Motorsport-entered Prodrive Hunter, with Carlos Sainz taking sixth at 14 seconds behind Ekstrom in the third of the Audi entries.

The top 10 in the Prologue get to choose their starting position for Stage 1, which takes competitors down the Red Sea coast before returning to the Sea Camp on an untimed section.

Other classes

With the dominant Kamaz-Master team absent this year amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it was MM Technology’s Martin Macik who won the Prologue in the Trucks.

Rokas Baciuska (Red Bull Can-Am) topped the SSVs, with Australian Molly Taylor (South Racing Can-Am) 17th-fastest, while Cristina Gutierrez Herrero (Red Bull Can-Am) prevailed in Lightweight Prototype.

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Prologue: Cars Top 10

Pos Driver Co-driver Team Time/Gap
1 Mattias Ekstrom Emil Bergkvist Team Audi Sport 00:08:00
2 Sebastien Loeb Fabian Lurquin Bahrain Raid Xtreme +0:00:01
3 Stéphane Peterhansel Edouard Boulanger Team Audi Sport +0:00:11
4 Nasser Al-Attiyah Mathieu Baumel Toyota Gazoo Racing +0:00:12
5 Guerlain Chicherit Alex Winocq GCK Motorsport +0:00:13
6 Carlos Sainz Lucas Cruz Team Audi Sport +0:00:14
7 Yazeed Al Rajhi Dirk Von Zitzewitz Overdrive Racing +0:00:16
8 Jakub Przygonski Armand Monleon X-Raid Mini JCW Team +0:00:16
9 Orlando Terranova Alex Haro Bravo Bahrain Raid Xtreme +0:00:20
10 Henk Lategan Brett Cummings Toyota Gazoo Racing +0:00:21

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