Mattias Ekstrom And Emil Bergvist
Mattias Ekstrom and Emil Bergvist in their Dakar Rally entry. (Red Bull photo)

Ekström And Gutiérrez Start Strong At 45th Dakar Rally

Mattias Ekström, Cristina Gutiérrez and Toby Price starred at the opening prologue stage of the 45th edition of motorsport’s toughest test of endurance, the Dakar Rally. 

On Saturday, a short, sharp 13km prologue track on the shores of the Red Sea determined the starting positions for Sunday’s more challenging 368km timed special stage. There were a total of 603 competitors in 355 vehicles racing to launch the event.

Two-time DTM championship winner Ekström piloted the Audi RS Q e-tron E2 for the first time with the day’s fastest time across all categories (eight minutes) to claim an early lead in the T1 car class standings. The Swede, 44, said, “A good end to 2022, but tomorrow is the real start.”

Meanwhile, in the T3 race, Gutiérrez set the fastest time with co-driver Pablo Moreno. Gutiérrez looks to improve on her third place finish at last year’s Dakar Rally.

“I’m feeling really happy with the car and team, the mentality is really positive,” said the 31-year-old Spaniard. 

Former bike champion Price won for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team with Australian compatriot Daniel Sanders in second spot.

After the Dakar is done and dusted on January 15, the 83 vehicles on the start list of this season-long adventure (28 motorbikes, four quads, 19 T1s, 14 T3s, 14 T4s and four trucks) will clash again in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in February, the Sonora Rally in April, the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina in late August and the finale in the Rallye du Maroc in October.

The FIA and FIM World Rally-Raid Championships will be contested over 10 months with 59 days of racing.