Since 2020, the Dakar Rally has plowed through the dunes of Saudi Arabia. The country’s arid climate frequently welcomes competitors with dry conditions, but a recent rainstorm washed out the 2023 Dakar’s third stage.
The day began as any other, with the previous stage’s top finishers setting out first. The 447-kilometer route between Alula and Ha’il already presented navigational challenges, with riders and drivers traversing sandy tracks and rocky canyons. The weather didn’t make matters any easier as the day wore on.
Fortunately, the Bikes category started the day first, allowing many riders to cross the finish line before officials stepped in to cancel the remainder of the stage. As a result of worsening weather conditions, Dakar Rally organizers stopped riders at Checkpoint 2 (335 km) and Checkpoint 3 (377 km). Soon after, the competition announced that it would halt car and truck categories at Checkpoint 3 (km 377) as well.
For riders unable to finish the stage, officials calculated their finishing time by averaging their pace during the first leg of the day. Those lucky enough to cross the finish line maintained that time heading into Stage 4. On the automotive side, Checkpoint 3 became the new finish line following the stage cancellation.
Less than an hour after the two announcements, Dakar Rally officials revealed that the weather conditions didn’t just impact the riders and drivers but also hindered emergency services. In a Twitter post, the organization admitted that it couldn’t guarantee the safety of its helicopter response teams, compelling it to call off the stage prematurely.
Still, the chaos created by the weather conditions not only challenged the competitors but also delivered some of the best imagery of this year’s rally. Hopefully, the remaining stages bring clear skies with them, though.