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Desert miracle, motorsport fairytale – Moraes and Gottschalk celebrate podium finish at the Dakar Rally

15. January 2023

Further contributions

  • Reliability wins: Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk finish a surprisingly outstanding third in the “Dakar”
  • Brazilian-Brandenburg duo the revelation of the 45th edition of the desert classic thanks to a zero-fault job
  • Expectations exceeded on all levels: Moraes/Gottschalk master 4,247 brutally demanding “Dakar” kilometers with driving nous

Dammam, Saudi Arabia (January 15, 2023) – The kings of consistency have been crowned: Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk have caused a sensation by finishing third in the 2023 Dakar Rally. The Brazilian-Brandenburg duo achieved the often desired but almost impossible zero-fault job at the toughest motorsport event in the world, which took them across extremely demanding terrain through Saudi Arabia. Rookie Lucas Moraes’ podium finish marks the first time a newcomer has achieved a podium in the automobile classification of the Dakar Rally this millennium. The last time Björn Waldegård achieved this was in 1990, one month after the birth of Lucas Moraes. Experience means everything – the last five “Dakar” podiums were shared by just seven different drivers, all of whom also competed this year and four of whom reached the finish line. For Timo Gottschalk, it was his third podium finish in 15 Dakar Rally appearances since 2009, following second place in 2010 and victory in 2011 – back then as co-driver to Nasser Al-Attiyah.

Relentless, a test for man and material: the 2023 “Dakar” through Saudi Arabia

Whether extreme gravel passages and endless scree sections, fast sand tracks and off-piste, small “dunettes” and gigantic dunes, soft, hard or water-soaked desert sand – Lucas Moraes set the ideal pace as a driver in all situations, protecting the equipment as much as necessary, but slowing down as little as possible. Timo Gottschalk provided support by “reading” the dunes and with a great deal of experience, always maintaining a navigational overview in the maze of canyons and compass navigation through the open landscape. Remarkable: 33-year-old Lucas Moraes lifted the third largest “Dakar” trophy exactly 44 days after his very first competitive outing in the desert sand.

Keep moving – the key to success at the “Dakar”

On the tough tour through Saudi Arabia, from the coast on the Red Sea, detours to the off-road center around Ha’il in the north of the country or to the largest sand desert in the world – the Empty Quarter – and to the finish on the Persian Gulf, Moraes/Gottschalk limited the downtimes to a maximum. The duo, newly formed for this Dakar Rally, recorded only three punctures, only once did they dig themselves into the desert sand and that just for a few minutes. In view of the 4,247 kilometers against the clock, 8,877 in total, this is the much-vaunted zero-fault job that many teams dream of, but only achieve in exceptional cases. Another factor: their Toyota Hilux, which complies with T1-plus regulations and is prepared by the experienced Overdrive team from Belgium, did not let them down once.

First unnoticed, then celebrated – nothing has been for free for Moraes/Gottschalk

Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk surprisingly worked their way up to a podium place in the 2023 Dakar Rally on the sixth of 14 days of competition with their unflustered, unexcited but uncompromisingly consistent driving. At test kilometre 2,210 of 4,247, they finished third for the first time. From then on, they remained in a virtual podium position – for nine stages in a row. On three of them they even came second. Before the “Dakar”, Moraes/Gottschalk had set themselves the ultimate goal of finishing in the top ten of the daily standings at least once. They achieved this feat 10 out of a possible 14 times. Considering the class of the starting field – at least 20 teams were considered candidates for the podium in advance – this was a realistic but far exceeded goal, even in retrospect.

Learning in the box – clever tactics are extremely efficient and successful

The fact that Lucas Moraes and Timo Gottschalk exceeded expectations at all levels was also appreciated by their opponents – for example by the eventual winners Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel (QAT/FRA, Toyota), quote: “The future of the Dakar Rally”. The Brazilian-Brandenburg duo cleverly capitalized on their starting positions, hanging on to the top favourites in order to learn driving techniques, rhythm and potential speed in the desert from their box seat position. Lucas Moraes, who had travelled to the Dakar Rally with the aim of learning, had a correspondingly steep learning curve. In the very terrain that was the great unknown for the Paulista – desert sand – he celebrated his best results on a “Dakar” day: one third place and one fourth place in the notorious Empty Quarter.


“I think it wasn’t just a tough ‘Dakar’ for me as a rookie. The capricious weather at the beginning, the extremely long days of the first week. Plus the desert stages in the second week, which were really tough. The fact that we finished on the podium straight away on my debut and also kept up with the top drivers makes me really proud. The cooperation with Timo worked really well, he contributed a lot to our success with his experience. His commitment was great. I hope we can do it again!”


“You’d have to pinch me for a moment, please: We are on the podium! It’s the third time for me, after 2010 and 2011 with Nasser Al-Attiyah – but there we more or less fulfilled the expectations placed on us. However, this third place with Lucas exceeds all expectations and targets – that feels particularly good. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve achieved over the past two weeks. Lucas has shown an incredible amount of talent and has always done everything right. I have also played a part in this. I’m very happy that I got the chance to race with Lucas.”


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