After an eventful first six stages to the 2023 Dakar Rally, stage seven was cancelled for the bikes and quads due to the weather. They instead spent the day taking the shortest route (over roads!) to the start of Stage Eight, in the hopes that the weather would be amenable to that stage going as planned on Sunday, January 8. 

Thankfully, the weather cooperated—and so, all competitors got back in the saddle for the 346-kilometer length of Stage Eight as scheduled. Daniel Sanders was the first rider to get a fastest time declaration at kilometer 47, as he came out well ahead of Pablo Quintanilla, Luciano Benavides, Toby Price, and Skyler Howes. However, he didn’t stay at the top of the time rankings for very long, as Mason Klein soon came through and set a fast time that was a full 50 seconds quicker than that of Sanders. 

Minutes later, Ross Branch came through kilometer 47, after having started the stage 17th . That afforded him the opportunity to see the tracks of the riders who’d gone ahead of him, and helped him set a time that was only six seconds behind that of Klein—moving him up to second place at that timing checkpoint. 

The top three fastest racers kept their order by kilometer 147, with only the gaps between them changing. After all three had passed through that checkpoint, Mason Klein emerged with a 22-second lead ahead of Ross Branch’s time, and a 1-minute, 6-second lead over Daniel Sanders in third place.  

By the refueling checkpoint at kilometer 203, though, things had changed—and that’s also the point where time bonuses stopped being awarded to the riders out front. By kilometer 203, Ross Branch had managed to set a time that was a full seven seconds faster than Mason Klein, with Daniel Sanders riding four seconds behind Klein. The next fastest rider, Adrien Van Beveren, was a full three minutes and six seconds behind Branch. 

When it was all said and done, Ross Branch took the Stage Eight win for Hero MotoSports, with Mason Klein and his BAS World KTM Racing machine in second, and KTM Factory rider Kevin Benavides in third. Initially, as Klein’s Stage Eight performance built on his strength over the previous 2023 stages, it looked like Klein was out front in the overall standings for the bike category. After receiving a two-minute penalty for speeding in the road section of the stage, however, Klein got bumped back down to tie with Kevin Benavides for second place, both behind Skyler Howes overall as things currently stand. 

Here are the top 10 riders for the 2023 Dakar Rally’s Stage Eight: 

Rider Team Time
Ross Branch (BWA)  Hero MotoSports Team Rally  3 hours, 46 minutes, 18 seconds 
Mason Klein (USA) BAS World KTM Racing Team  3 hours, 47 minutes, 51 seconds 
Daniel Sanders (AUS)  Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing 3 hours, 49 minutes, 33 seconds
Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)  Monster Energy Honda Team  3 hours, 52 minutes, 47 seconds 
Adrien Van Beveren (FRA) Monster Energy Honda Team 3 hours, 52 minutes, 53 seconds
Michael Docherty (ZAF) HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing  3 hours, 54 minutes, 18 seconds 
Sebastian Bühler (DEU)  Hero MotoSports Team Rally 3 hours, 54 minutes, 31 seconds
Matthias Walkner (AUT) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  3 hours, 54 minutes, 58 seconds
Lorenzo Santolino (ESP) Sherco Factory 3 hours, 55 minutes, 7 seconds 
Kevin Benavides (ARG) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  3 hours, 55 minutes, 36 seconds

Monday, January 9 is the 2023 Dakar Rally’s official rest day, but competition is currently scheduled to resume in earnest on Tuesday, January 10 with Stage Nine. So far, no rider has won more than a single stage in the 2023 Dakar Rally, but will that change over the remaining stages? Skyler Howes remains in the lead in the overall standings, but the gap between him and the riders currently in second and third place overall (Kevin Benavides and Mason Klein) is a mere 13 seconds—not even half a minute.

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