By William Burgess
After making their team debut at Dakar Rally 2022 and clearing first place in the T4 SSV Class, Austin “AJ” Jones (USA) and his co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin (Brazil) took the first place title, only to return in 2023 to do it all over again in the T3 Lightweight Prototype Class.
Rallying for Red Bull Off-Road JR Team USA by BFG, the 26 year-old Jones and his team raced their modified Can-Am Maverick to secure a victory once more.
“A big shout out to all the team, all the work that goes on behind the scenes.” said Jones in an interview. “We couldn’t do it without the help of those guys. My navigator Gustavo did a great job. We’ve done it, two years in a row!”
Though he may only have been considered a rookie three short years ago, when in 2020 Jones took 8th place in the UTV class during his inaugural Dakar Rally, Jones handily took on the world’s most grueling rally to come back stronger and faster than ever in 2021, securing a second place win that year, paving the way for his Championship wins thereafter.
Jones’s and team are now recognized as having the most stage wins in addition to winning every stage at Dakar 2022. The rally consisted this year of fourteen stages in a little over two weeks time beginning January 1, 2023 at Red Sea Camp near Yanbu, Saudi Arabia and ending in Damam, Saudi Arabia at the shores of the Persian Gulf.
The most difficult stretch by far is the Empty Quarter Marathon, taking place between stages 11 and 12 where teams race through the open desert without the aide of mechanics or crew, meaning the driver and co-driver are responsible for any repairs that need servicing.
With the 2023 rally now in the rearview, teams are gearing up for a full season of sanctioned rallies, all before doing it again at the Olympics of Off-Road in Saudi Arabia in 2024.
“To finally drive through every stage of the Dakar feels amazing. It’s only 350 days until the next one so we’re going get working on that,” said Seth Quintero (USA), also racing a Can-Am Maverick for the Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team,
Quintero and co-driver Dennis Zenz (Germany) took home second place in T3. In T4 rankings the Red Bull Can-Am Factory team came in second to the South Racing / Energylandia Rally Team led by Eryk Goczal (Poland) and Oriol Mena (Spain).
Additional rankings can be found at https://www.dakar.com/en/rankings . More information about Jones and Gugelmin’s win for the Red Bull Off-Road JR Team can be found in their Dakar Rally press release.
Cover: Austin Jones (USA) of Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team USA presented by BFGoodrich is seen at the finish line of Rally Dakar2023 in Dammam, Saudi Arabia on January 15, 2023 | Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool
Will Burgess is a journalist with Adrenaline Powersports Mag