Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has completed the first half of the Dakar Rally’s Empty Quarter marathon stage as third fastest. The impressive result moves him back into second place in the overall standings, just 28 seconds down on the leader. Kevin Benavides rode to a solid 10th place today and drops two spots to third in the standings, while Matthias Walkner successfully defended his 10th place overall after his performance through the Saudi dunes.
Leading competitors from Shaybah to the bivouac in the Empty Quarter, today’s stage 11 delivered 274-kilometers of dunes and tracks raced against the clock. With times still tight at the top of the leaderboard, riders had to push hard over the grueling terrain to secure their positions while also being mindful to take extra care of their machines, as no outside assistance is permitted overnight.
After the 153-kilometer liaison this morning, Toby Price was the 19th rider to enter today’s special. The Australian made steady progress through the stage, balancing out-and-out speed with the preservation of himself and his KTM 450 RALLY. Ultimately posting the third-fastest time for the stage, just under two minutes down on the leader, means Toby climbs back up to second overall in the provisional standings and will also have two riders to chase down on tomorrow’s slightly shorter 185-kilometer special on stage 12.
Toby Price: “I think the stage went well for me today, I was able to get a little bit of time back and that puts me in good contention for the podium places still. I’m feeling in good shape and the bike is perfect, so no issues there. Starting back a little bit definitely helped today. I did make a little mistake early on, like a couple of the guys in front I think, but was able to correct it pretty quickly and carry on. I just took it quite steady today – pushed where it was safe to do so and then eased off a bit to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I’ll be third away for tomorrow, which isn’t too bad, so I’ll keep on fighting and see where we end up.”
In contrast to his teammate Price, Kevin Benavides set off near the front of today’s stage, and with little in the way of tracks ahead of him, the Argentinian had to carefully navigate his way through the dunes of the special. Making good time through the first half of the stage, Benavides fought his way up to fourth, but was then forced to ease his pace after catching the lead group of riders, which he joined on the final kilometers to the finish. In placing 10th, Kevin drops to third overall in the rankings, but trails the leader by less than three minutes.
Kevin Benavides: “Another tough day and the first part of the marathon stage today. I started in fourth position and tried to push straight away. I did a good job, I caught the guys in front after refueling, and from there we rode together for the last 80 kilometers or so. The bike is all ready in the parc fermé and I have a good start position for tomorrow, so it’s just a case of trying to make up time and stay in the fight.”
Enjoying his time in the Saudi desert, Matthias Walkner delivered a strong ride to 13th place, despite a couple of issues along the way. Having lost time through injury in the first week of the event, Matthias feel less under pressure and plans to complete his 2023 Dakar on a high, attacking the remaining stages and securing a solid finish.
Matthias Walkner: “I had a good stage today. It was good fun riding in the Empty Quarter for the second day and it certainly lived up to its name as there was nothing to see for miles around. I made a bit of a mistake early on that cost me some minutes, but then I managed to get stuck in a pocket of soft sand that took a little while to get out of. There is no contrast at all in the desert and you never know when something like this will happen. I pushed hard after refueling to make up time, and that was great fun jumping off the dunes. It really was a beautiful stage. I have a good start position for tomorrow, so I’ll aim for a top-three finish.”
Riders return to their teams at the bivouac in Shaybah tomorrow on day 12 of the rally, covering a total of 376 kilometers, 185 of which are timed special stage.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 11
1. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 2:57:59
2. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 2:59:37 +1:38
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:59:55 +1:56
4. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:00:08 +2:09
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 3:00:53 +2:54
10. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:04:21 +6:22
13. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:06:33 +8:34
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 11 of 14 stages)
1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 38:47:43
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 38:48:11 +0:28
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 38:50:27 +2:44
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 39:01:57 +14:14
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 39:03:07 +15:24
9. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 39:19:18 +31:35
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 39:32:28 +44:45