Dakar 2023: Ales Loprais takes lead after stage victory


Aleš Loprais and his crew have handled another rocky route perfectly and have taken the lead in the Trucks category after completing two stages.

The Dakar Rally 2023 is challenging, as the organizers have prepared an incredibly difficult marathon for the participating teams. For the fourth edition of the event that takes place on the Arabian Peninsula, they have put together an extremely tough route. The opening days have already shown that it was too much for some crews.

On Monday, January 2, the event continued with Stage 2, a 590-kilometre-long route from Sea Camp to Al-Ula. This time, however, competitors drove through rock-covered mountains and dry river beds. The route featured a variety of challenges, including several climbs and slopes, very difficult areas for navigation, sandy canyons, and at the very end, several smaller dunes. The stage times show how difficult the route was, as even the best trucks needed over five and a half hours to finish the 430-kilometer-long stage.

Dakar 2022

“It was a very rough stage and especially physically. We’re quite beaten. We started to feel headaches and neck pains halfway through the stage already,” Aleš Loprais said.

“There were so many rocks again. We stayed focused, trying not to make any errors or to get a puncture. And it went well. Some of the landscapes were really beautiful, but overall, it was so long and exhausting that I just really looked forward to the finish line.”

Dakar 2022

Once again, the truck Praga V4S DKR #508 handled the challenging conditions perfectly. And the cooperation between Aleš Loprais and his crew Jaroslav Valtr jr. and Petr Pokora went just as smoothly.

“The risk of getting a puncture was huge, but Aleš drove with a clear head. He abides by what he said at the beginning. The truck continues without any significant issues, even though there’s definitely some work ahead of us tonight. It really took a lot of beating in the rocky sections today,” mechanic Petr Pokora said.

After the first third of the stage, the InstaForex Loprais Team took second place behind Janus van Kasteren. However, the Czech crew ultimately moved up in the standings to take a stage victory following a 15-minute penalty for the Dutch driver, which saw him drop behind Loprais. After showing a great performance and result, Loprais, Valtr jr. and Pokora took the overall lead in the Trucks category, with more than a 12-minute gap to van Kasteren, who is now in second position.

Dakar 2022

“The pace is high, but considering how close it is between everyone, we had expected it to go this way. And it has been going this way since the Prologue. We just try to stay consistent, and let’s wait and see what’s ahead of us. The deciding moments will come probably in the second half of the event in the dune fields, and that is what we will focus on,” Aleš Loprais added. He continues to follow the strategy prepared by the team before the competition.

On Tuesday, the Dakar Rally continues northeast, heading from Al-Ula to Ha’il. The trucks must handle the next 669 kilometers, with 447 kilometers counting as Stage 3. Right after the start, the competitors will go through a special passage that the race director David Castera has described as perhaps the most beautiful 50 kilometres of the whole Dakar Rally. However, very few are going to have time to admire the landscape, as racing crews will face more rough segments, including challenging canyons and mountainous routes. During the stage, vehicles will ascend to the height of 1,305 meters, which is also the highest point of this year’s route. Nevertheless, the timed part of the stage should be fast-paced, even though it all depends on the skills and confidence of each navigator. It is too easy to get lost in the mountain valleys, something that already happened to many famous rally drivers near Ha’il during previous Dakar rallies.

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