Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Kevin Benavides has posted the fourth quickest time on the long 447-kilometer timed special on day three of the Dakar Rally. Toby Price delivered a strong performance over the mixed terrain to finish in sixth place, while Matthias Walkner placed 11th.
Coming in at an exhausting 669 kilometers, stage three of the Dakar Rally was the longest of the 2023 event so far. Incredible scenery greeted the riders as they entered the stage, but their focus was firmly fixed on the task at hand – navigating accurately through the grueling timed special that challenged competitors with a mix of gravel tracks through deep canyons, and open sandy sections, damp from overnight rain.
As the eighth rider into the stage, Kevin Benavides was well-placed to chase down the seven riders ahead of him. And despite times being tight at the top of the leaderboard, the Argentinian put in a consistent ride to move quickly inside the top three and remain there for the majority of the stage. Despite incurring a two-minute penalty, Benavides’ fourth-place result moves the 2021 Dakar champion up to provisional third in the overall rankings, less than seven minutes down on the leader.
Kevin Benavides: “It was a good stage for me, but really hard at almost 450 kilometers in length. It was a lost faster on average than yesterday with a lot more sand, but also rivers and canyons as before. It had rained overnight so it was wet in some places, and that changes the terrain a little, especially the soft sand. I rode a strong stage – I had a good pace and didn’t make too many mistakes, but I’m definitely ready to get some rest now and recharge my batteries for tomorrow.”
Toby Price once again showed his experience on stage three by sticking to a fast but calculated pace. With the stage being as long and tiring as it was, a mistake could easily have a huge impact on an overall result, and as such Toby’s solid ride to sixth now sets him up nicely to attack Wednesday’s stage four.
Toby Price: “The weather today has been quite cold and overcast, so that makes a change here at the Dakar. The stage went well for me today, I kept my head down, pushed where I could, and tried to keep to a good pace for the whole day. I dropped down the order a little bit today, but that’s just the nature of the race. It’s only day three, so we’ve still got a long way to go yet.”
Setting off 10th into the special, Matthias Walkner maintained a strong pace despite struggling slightly to settle into a good rhythm. Completing the stage in 11th place, the Austrian now lies ninth overall and will be looking to use that start position to his advantage through the dunes of tomorrow’s stage four.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a really long stage today. The landscape was incredible, and possibly one of the most beautiful stages I have ever ridden. I didn’t feel too comfortable today though, I struggled to find a good rhythm and opted to ensure a solid, safe finish. The rocky sections are really unpredictable, so it’s difficult to push as hard as I’d like through them. Overall, I’m happy because I’m giving my all each day, I just need to stay consistent and hopefully the pace will come.”
Following on from his debut Dakar Rally stage win yesterday, KTM-supported Mason Klein continued to impress today on stage four. The young American demonstrated the quality of his navigational skills as he opened the special from start to finish, securing himself a third-place stage result. Klein currently lies second overall in the event standings.
The 2023 Dakar Rally continues tomorrow with a looped stage starting and finishing at the bivouac in Ha’il. Totaling 574 kilometers, riders will face a 425-kilkometer timed special raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 3
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 4:24:15
2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 4:30:34 +6:19
3. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 4:31:14 +9:59
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:31:38 +7:23
5. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:35:44 +11:29
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:36:29 +12:14
11. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:40:54 +16:39
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 3 of 14 stages)
1. Daniel Sanders (AUS), GASGAS, 14:05:38
2. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 14:09:42 +4:04
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 14:12:31 +6:53
4. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 14:14:13 +8:35
5. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 14:16:15 +10:37
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 14:16:38 +11:00
9. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 14:27:40 +22:02