Dakar 2023, Benavides (motorcycle) and Al-Attiyah (car) win. Italy third in the Classic

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With Prince Nasser Al-Attiyah, Toyota won the Dakar 2023, Ktm confirmed its dominance among the motorcycle classes in which Argentinean Kevin Benavides returned to win this year and Iveco benefited from the absence of the “battleship” Russian Kamaz and occupied the first four places among trucks. But it is thanks to a mechanical engineer from Faenza, the 66-year-old Paolo Bedeschi, and a photographer from Turin, Daniele Bottallo, that Italy climbs onto the podium of the toughest rally raid in the world.

In its first appearance, the crew finished third in the 3rd Dakar Classic, divided into 13 stages (today’s was just a transfer) with 3,350 kilometers of orienteering and regularity tests and 6,542 overall.

A marathon reserved for vintage vehicles particularly loved by Italians: over 30 registered cars and “vintage” trucks, practically half of all the Azzurri who took part in the Dakar 2023. Bedeschi and Bottallo shared the cockpit of a Toyota BJ80 from 1988, which apart from some electronics problems in the last few days hasn’t given the two any particular hassle. Who had set off to get to the bottom and when they got to the bottom they found themselves in front of it.

The third absolute position was conquered at the expense of a Belgian crew with three fractions to go. They also climbed the podium three times: a first, a second and a third place. “A very great emotion”, comments Bedeschi, very measured, who however didn’t hide that although he was very happy to participate, we wouldn’t be disappointed if he ended up winning. «Another Dakar? I would like it, yes. But the second is never as beautiful as the first », he smiles. The singular combination with Bottallo is the result of a race that both had done in Spain, the Baya 800, last year: Bedeschi took part in it with his wife Manuela, Bottallo won it with his father Walter with a 2002 Fiat Panda.

«We did it – Daniele vents – we overcame all the technical and route difficulties and problems, with lots of water. We sailed on sight in the true sense of the term. Our joy is maximum: it is a dream come true. Actually, maybe not yet: I look at the landscape and think back to all the emotions I’ve experienced in these days”.

On the podium, the two Italians were preceded by the Spaniards Morera/Ruba and Santaolalla/Sol I Juanola, with another Toyota model. At the foot of the podium were the “blues” Riccardo Garosci and Rudy Briani, who preceded the winners of the last edition, the French Mogno/Drulhon.

The fourth Arab Dakar (the ideal “destination” according to Al-Attiyah), although practically without an audience, which the organizers preferred to inform shortly after the attacks of the last edition, was marred by the death of an Italian enthusiast who was left under a truck in the race driven by the Czech Ales Loprais, who then chose to withdraw from the competition.

Among cars, Toyota placed five Hilux pickups in the top 10, which does not include Audi, which had big ambitions. Of the “dream team” (17 victories overall) lined up by the house of the Four Rings, only Mattias Ekström finished at the bottom, among other things with five consecutive podiums in the second week of the race. Stéphane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz were forced to retire: the first when he was second, the second when he was much later, but his race had been compromised by an accident at the same kilometer which cost Monsieur Dakar the race.

Sébastien Loeb, the “cannibal”, has won seven stages, climbing from thirty-first to second place overall with the ProDrive Hunter, a vehicle that appears in first place in all seven stages of the second week. The last one, today’s one, went to Guerlain Chicherit.

In the motorcycle swing, Kevin Benavides (two stages won, another three won by his brother Luciano, seventh overall) snatched the success in the sprint from Toby Price (also Ktm), who was ahead of him by 12” until yesterday . Skyler Howes (Husqvarna, owned by Ktm), the centaur who remained in command for the longest time (six days), had to settle for third place.

At his second participation, the Tuscan Paolo Lucci (Ktm) finished fifteenth.

Without Kamaz, the competition between trucks was open and, in the end, Dutchman Janus Van Kasteren won in front of three crews aboard Iveco vehicles. Thirteenth the first Italians with Claudio Bellina at the wheel of an Iveco of MM Technology, already third in 2005, but as a navigator. The Frenchman Alexandre Giroud triumphed with the Yamaha quad, confirming his success in 2022 and maintaining a title in Europe that usually ends up in Latin America, between Argentina and Chile.

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