Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has retaken the lead of the 2023 Dakar Rally following a strong ride to third place on stage 12 – the second leg of the event’s Empty Quarter marathon stage. Kevin Benavides placed fifth to successfully retain his third-place position in the overall rally standings, less than three minutes behind Price. Completing today’s special just seconds ahead of Benavides, Matthias Walkner carved his way through to fourth place on his KTM 450 RALLY.
Completing the second leg of the marathon stage without issue, Toby Price covered the 185-kilometer timed special on stage 12 in just under two hours. More importantly, Toby not only made up time on his closest rivals in the race for victory, but he also regained the overall rally lead and will have two other riders to chase down on tomorrow’s penultimate stage 13.
Racing at the front of the field remains incredibly close with Toby leading the general rankings by a narrow margin of just under 30 seconds. The two-time Dakar champion will draw on all his experience and skill to ensure good, solid finishes over the final two stages of the race as he has his sights set firmly on securing his third title at the world’s toughest rally-raid.
Toby Price: “The marathon stage has gone well. I have to admit, I didn’t sleep that well yesterday, but I gave it my all out there on the dunes. I wasn’t sure of the result when I came in to the finish today, but it looks like I’m back on top, leading the race. It’s a really close race right now and even the smallest problem could cost you the win. My plan is to keep on pushing over the next two days and try and have some fun.”
Securing a solid fifth-place finish on stage 12, Kevin Benavides closed the gap slightly on the provisional rally lead and remains in third place overall, two minutes and 40 seconds down. The Argentine racer will also have the advantage of another four riders starting ahead of him on tomorrow’s special where he will aim to make up as much time as possible before then attacking the final stage of the race on Sunday.
Kevin Benavides: “The marathon stage went really well for me. Both halves were made up mostly of dunes, so they were a real challenge, but good fun to ride, too. Today I started a little further back, so I tried to keep a good flow through the dunes to make up some time without making any big mistakes. I think I did a good job, and I have got a good start position for tomorrow, which I think will be a really decisive stage in the race.”
Enjoying his time in the Empty Quarter dunes, Matthias Walkner found the terrain very much to his liking. And, feeling comfortable on his KTM 450 RALLY, was able to push hard through the stage to finish in an excellent fourth place. Currently in ninth position overall, although the fight for the podium might now be out of reach for the Austrian, Matthias will continue to fight for solid stage results, giving his all as usual on what is his ninth Dakar appearance.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a super-nice stage today. Honestly, the dunes here in the Empty Quarter are really, really nice. It was quite intense, not so long, but with all the soft sand you have to push a lot and it’s still very physical. As we ride more here it becomes easier to judge and read the terrain. Nacho (Cornejo) caught me today and it was such good fun riding through the dunes together. With only two days of the rally left now, my goal is to simply have fun, do my best, and reach the finish line safely. I plan to enjoy it!”
Stage 13, the penultimate of the rally, will see riders cover a total distance of 675 kilometers as they travel from Shaybah to Al Hofuf. A short timed special of 154 kilometers through the dunes will test competitors’ physical and mental endurance once again.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 12
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 1:57:27
2. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 1:58:16 +0:49
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 1:59:25 +1:58
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 1:59:32 +2:05
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 1:59:49 +2:22
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 12 of 14 stages)
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 40:47:36
2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 40:48:04 +0:28
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 40:50:16 +2:40
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 41:02:30 +14:54
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 41:03:50 +16:14
9. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 41:32:00 +44:24
10. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 41:42:34 +54:58