Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Kevin Benavides and Toby Price currently lie second and fourth respectively in the provisional overall Dakar Rally standings at the close of day eight. Matthias Walkner, who suffered a wrist injury earlier in the event moves up to 10th overall following his eighth-place performance on today’s special.
With Saturday’s stage seven reduced to just a liaison section due to the fatigue of the riders and the bad weather across the region, Sunday saw the competitors return to Riyadh after staying in a temporary bivouac at Al Duwadimi. Stage eight delivered a demanding 346-kilometer timed special that led the bikers through a mixture of stony valleys, dunes, and fast, rocky tracks.
Making the very best use of his 10th place start position, Matthias Walkner put in a solid ride on stage eight to steadily move himself up the timesheets to complete the special as eighth fastest. Despite the early injury to his wrist, the 2018 Dakar Winner continues to deliver stage after stage of strong, consistent rides, the result of which is a steady climb back up the overall leaderboard where the Austrian now lies 10th.
Matthias Walkner: “I gave my all today on what was a super-tough stage. The navigation was tricky, but I think I did a good job there. Where I’m struggling is the speed over the fast rocky tracks – it’s hard to hang on and keep up the pace I’d like. Overall though, I’m happy with my riding. Tomorrow’s rest day will give me a little more time to recover and build my strength, then it’s on to the final six stages and the finish next Sunday.”
Fifth into the stage, Kevin Benavides initially lost a little time over the first 50 kilometers or so, where navigation was especially technical. However, remaining focused, the Argentinian then got his head down to push on for the remainder of the special. Fighting his way back to inside the top 10 on time, Kevin completed the stage in 10th, which in turn elevates him to second in the provisional overall standings.
Kevin Benavides: “The stage went well for me today. I was lucky in that I started a little way back as the stage would have been really tricky to open. We were able to slowly catch the guys ahead and that in turn meant that after refueling there was a big group of us racing through the dunes to the finish. I’m in second place overall and now have the rest day to recharge my batteries, so overall, a good first week.”
Catching the two riders ahead of him by around kilometer 150, Toby Price then assisted in opening the tricky-to-navigate stage eight. Although Toby accumulated one minute and 47 seconds in bonuses, an unfortunate one-minute penalty reduced the time gained. Happy to safely complete the stage, and now looking forward to the rest day and the remaining six stages, Toby is happy to be lying fourth overall.
Toby Price: “I’m definitely looking forward to the rest day now – time to relax and get sorted for the second week of racing. I lost a little time today riding up near the front, but my overall position is still decent. In the leading group today we were leaving perfect tracks for the guys behind to follow, so it was inevitable that we would lose some minutes. The rocks were super-slippery, too, which meant it was best just to ease off a little rather than risk a crash. A bit of care now can pay off a lot by the end of the race.”
KTM-supported Mason Klein bounced back from a fuel issue that cost him several minutes earlier in the week to initially post the second-fastest time on today’s stage. However a two-minute penalty incurred for speeding dropped him down to third for the stage and third overall.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 8
1. Ross Branch (BWA), Hero, 3:46:18
2. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 3:49:33 +3:15
3. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 3:49:51 +3:33
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:52:47 +6:29
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 3:52:53 +6:35
8. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:54:58 +8:40
10. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:55:36 +9:18
17. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:00:51 +14:33
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 8 of 14 stages)
1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 30:33:16
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 30:34:29 +1:13
3. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 30:32:29 +1:13
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 30:36:14 +2:58
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 30:37:01 +3:45
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 30:56:51 +23:35