ADV Pulse

NEWSLETTER
Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Newsletter

Get ADV Pulse delivered by email
Sign up for ADV Pulse Weekly

Connect With Us

Follow On Facebook:

ADV NewsDakar 2023 Recap: Argentine Kevin Benavides Takes Historic Win

Dakar 2023 Recap: Argentine Kevin Benavides Takes Historic Win

Daily stage updates and video recaps of the Dakar Rally 2023.

Published on 01.15.2023

January 15, 2023: FINAL STAGE

Kevin Benavides has won the 2023 Dakar Rally! After coming in from a fast, muddy beachfront final stage just 43 seconds ahead of his teammate Toby Price, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, formerly with Honda, has officially claimed his second Dakar victory, and by the narrowest winning margin in the rally’s history. Now a 2-time winner, an honor shared with only 5 other riders, Benavides says the last push, a stage that was expected to be straightforward, was actually very tricky with muddy sections, and he could have easily made a mistake that would’ve cost him the win. 

His win also sees KTM’s return to the top spot on the Dakar podium, marking its 19th win after taking a forced three year hiatus to watch Honda enjoy two victories and GasGas, one. 

Kevin’s victory marks the first time that a motorcycle rider wins Dakar with 2 different manufacturers. This is also the first time that a rider not leading the race in the penultimate stage wins.

Kevin Benavides: “It’s been an amazing day! I just focused on every kilometer from the first to the last. I didn’t think about the position or the result, I just gave my 100 percent over the whole stage and tried to enjoy the day. I have worked so hard for this. This year’s rally has been one of the closest ever and there wasn’t a single day where you could afford to ease off.” 


ADVERTISEMENT

Also finishing strong for KTM, two-time Dakar champ Toby Price, who was top of the leaderboard yesterday and hoped he had a win in the bag. After all, a rider leading in the penultimate stage has never lost a Dakar. But with a margin of just 12 seconds over his teammate Benavides, history was subject to change. As the last rider to enter today’s special, Price’s intent was to overtake his KTM teammate on the field after a reverse order start and sprint home for the win, but navigation errors cost too much valuable time. Despite earning back close to a minute on the latter half of the special, it wasn’t enough to secure the fastest time.

Despite feeling happy for his KTM teammate, missing the top spot by the crazily narrow margin of just 43 seconds after 44 hours of timed racing must feel like a sucker punch for the runner up, especially knowing it was missed waypoints, not his riding, that cost him the victory.

Toby Price: “So, so close. Yeah, a great job from Kevin, he did really well today. I knew it was going to be tight, and of course I pushed right from the start all through the stage. I just missed three waypoints by virtually meters, and it dropped me back. Obviously, the goal is to win, and it’s frustrating to miss out by such a narrow margin. But I’m fit, healthy, and I’m going home with a trophy, so that’s the most important thing. I’m ready for another one next year.”

Having led the race for six stages, Team Husqvarna rider Skyler Howes takes the third position on the 2023 podium after a career-best run for the American, who just a few years ago was a budding privateer. Throttling into the final sprint from 7th position in the stage, Howes finished just over 5 minutes after the rally winner, Benavides. Although he started the day just 1 minute and 30 seconds from the leader with a win looking feasible, Howes also knew he had a cushion of 14 minutes ahead of Adrien Van Beveren, so consistency and a podium finish were his priority. 

Skyler Howes earned the 3rd spot. He spent six days in the lead of the Dakar, more than anyone else in this edition. 

Skyler Howes: “I am so happy! I arrived at the finish safely, and it feels like a dream come true and such an honor to share it with two legends like Toby (Price) and Kevin (Benavides). Everyone knows what you have to go through to get to this point, and after all that hard work, it makes this moment feel so sweet. Of course I want to come back and see what the other two steps of the podium feel like. But to now be one of five Americans to reach the podium at Dakar, it feels amazing.”

Yesterday left Monster Energy Honda teammates Adrien Van Beveren and Pablo Quintanilla on the leaderboard in 3rd and 4th position respectively, though with only a hair’s breadth 8- second gap between the two. At the end of the final stage, both guys and their bike’s covered in mud, it was Pablo Quintanilla who came up with the best finish for Honda, crossing the line 19 minutes after winner Kevin Benavides, with Van Beveren trailing a minute-and-a-half behind.  

Three-time stage winner Luciano Benavides, younger brother of today’s champion, finished 6th with GasGas rider Daniel Sanders in seventh, both within 6 minutes of Adrien Van Beveren. 

Luciano Benavides: “I’m really, really happy to reach the finish line. It’s been a crazy, tough and incredibly rewarding Dakar and I’m just over the moon to be here safely after what has to be one of the best races of my life. I came into this year’s rally without a Dakar stage win, and now I have three. It’s really given me motivation for the future.”

Has there ever been a tighter Dakar for the GP contingent? Absolutely not. What a race! The other unprecedented circumstance of this year’s Dakar was the outflow of last year’s top ten riders, with Sam Sutherland and Ricky Brabec leaving in the first two stages, then Joan Barreda, Mason Klein and Matthias Walkner calling it quits during the second week due injuries. Fast healing and good luck vibes go out to all those riders forced to abandon their 2023 Dakar dreams. 

In Rally2 it was Husqvarna riding Frenchman Romain Dumontier who took a decisive win today, with Italy’s Paolo Lucci on his KTM Rally Replica trailing just over 32 minutes behind. Third place went to Husqvarna FR450 riding Michael Docherty, who stayed in the game despite dealing with a flu, to arrive  1 hour and 17 minutes behind the winner. The three men ended up 14th through 16th in the general rankings with Docherty taking the title of top rookie. 

In the unassisted Original by Motul category it was South African Charan Moore for the win, coming in aboard his Husqvarna 21 minutes ahead of 2nd place finisher, Spanish Yamaha WR450F rider Javi Vega. Mario Patrao, now a seven-time Dakar finisher, took third on his KTM, a best-ever result for the Portuguese privateer. 

Update on Matthias Walkner

Dakar 2023 was a punishing event for 2018-winner Austrian KTM Factory rider Matthias Walkner. First there was a major crash in Stage 2 that left him with an injured wrist, then, after painfully clawing his way back into title contention a heavy crash in yesterday’s Stage 13 saw Walkner being airlifted to a Riyadh hospital with severe back pain and some loss of feeling to his legs, which he says was one of the scariest moments of his life. Thankfully, MRI results showed no serious injury and Matthias is currently on the mend. 

Matthias Walkner: “I’m a little lost for words. Honestly, it’s really scary when you start losing some feeling in your legs. It’s a shame that my Dakar finish line is in the hospital and not at the Dakar podium with the team. I’m sorry for my team and all the people who were cheering for me and believing in me. Thank you for all your nice messages and your support.”

Stage 14 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 14 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings


January 14, 2023: Stage 13

Today riders said goodbye to the Empty Quarter, roosting through the massive sand sea one last time in a fast-paced 154 km special before hunkering down for a 521 km liaison to Al-Hofuf, which lies in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. With the field unusually tight the leaders and their challengers, now fully warmed up to riding and navigating in the dunes, were left to focus on the consistency crucial to staying on top. 

Before things kicked off this morning, American Mason Klein, who’s meteoric rise in rally raid has caused a stir, made the decision to bow out of the event after being plagued by neck issues during the Empty Quarter stages. While X-rays in the bivouac found nothing abnormal, Klein decided to play it safe. 

Although reigning king of 2023 stage wins Luciano Benavides was originally given the fastest time at the Stage 13 finish, he ultimately received a one minute penalty for speeding, leaving the win to his brother Kevin Benavides. For Team KTM, the day was filled with excitement and horror, as Kevin and Toby Price stayed neck and neck for the lead, but Matthias Walkner suffered a major crash 55 km into today’s stage, and while he was conscious, he was flown to the hospital with a possible back injury. Kevin stayed with his teammate until help arrived, losing 23 minutes and 10 seconds that were ultimately restored in a good samaritan adjustment.

Kevin Benavides won the stage by a tight 27 seconds – enough to provisionally move him up into second in the overall standings. Photo: KTM

Kevin Benavides: “It’s always a difficult day when you see someone has had a crash, and it’s worse when it’s your teammate. I stayed with Matthias until help arrived and although he was in some pain, he then told me to carry on. I pushed hard for the rest of the stage, but it’s tricky to focus after seeing something like that. To win the stage is amazing, and to be second overall and so close to Toby is even more of a surprise. With one day left, all I can do is try my best and the results will be decided at the finish line.”

Rookie HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing-supported Michael Docherty, who currently leads by a thin margin in the Rally2 division, jumped into the thick of the GP mix today, grabbing the second spot in Stage 13, after a fast paced sprint across the dunes and finally onto gravel tracks, trailing stage winner Kevin Benavides’ time by a mere 27 seconds. 

The South African’s time was just 30 seconds ahead of Luciano Benavides, who, if it weren’t for a minor crash near the beginning of the stage and a one minute speeding penalty, would have been on top for the day. 

Luciano Benavides: “I had a small crash near the beginning, possibly from pushing a little too hard. But after that, I found my rhythm and was able to push again. It wasn’t quite enough to win the stage, but I’m happy with how I rode.”

Placing 4th for the day was Honda rider Adrien Van Beveren. Van Beveren started the day pushing hard but after jumping two or three dunes, he says he got tense and pulled back, riding with safety in mind for the remainder of the morning. The Frenchman is also in 4th in the overall standings, exactly where he finished in last year’s Dakar. But with one day to go, Van Beveren, running his best Dakar yet, says he’s going to push as hard as possible.  

Aussie Toby Price’s time for the day found him in 5th position. Price dealt with a minor crash and at least one navigational error during the special, but retained his lead in the general standings, if only by a razor thin margin. His KTM teammate Kevin Benavides trails by a ridiculously slight 12 seconds, making tomorrow’s final the tightest end game battle in Dakar history. 

Fourth in the penultimate stage of the rally despite a minor crash and a navigation error, Toby Price managed to increase his lead over Skyler Howes. Photo: KTM

Toby Price: “It’s been a hectic day out there today. I really pushed hard all day, with the goal to still be in the lead going into the final day. I managed to do that, so I’m pleased, but it’s still incredibly tight at the top. Tomorrow really is going to be a race to the finish line, but I’ll give it all I have and see where we end up.”

One minute and thirty-one seconds off the leader going into the charge for the finish tomorrow will be Husqvarna rider Skyler Howes who says he gave his all today surfing the dunes of Stage 13th though his 7th place finish saw him drop from 2nd to 3rd on the main leaderboard. Howes says seeing Walkner had crashed affected his focus and missing a waypoint meant circling back to pick it up, costing vital seconds. 

Skyler finished seventh in the special to defend his third place overall, 1′31″ behind Price. Photo: Husqvarna

Skyler Howes: “I’m still in the fight for the win, and [I’m] super happy with how this race has gone up to this point. I can never look back and say I didn’t try my best. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, it’s going to be a short but fast stage with little scope to make up time I think, so the goal is to get my Husqvarna to the finish line in one piece and hopefully in a good position.”

Trailing the leaders in tomorrow’s showdown will be Adrien Van Beveren  and his Honda teammate, Dakar legend and last year’s 2nd place finisher, Pablo Quintanilla. Both of the Monster Energy riders are slightly more than 15 minutes off leader Toby Price’s time, though they will actually start the final stage ahead of the top guns, since Dakar rules dictate the last day’s sprint begin in reverse order. Van Beveren and Quintanilla will also be sorting out their own battle on the beach, as a mere 8 seconds separates the two Honda pilots.

The reverse order start will undoubtedly benefit tomorrow’s leaders, who will enjoy the luxury of following a full set of tracks in the 136 km final sprint along the shores of the Arabian Gulf. Which rider might be the quickest to reach Dammam’s seafront podium is anyone’s guess, though it’s darn good odds the win will come down to KTM coin toss.

Performance of the Day

2021 Dakar champion Kevin Benavides had a two-sided day. On the one hand, coming upon his KTM teammate Matthias Walkner conscious but unable to stand at the 55 km mark was horrifying. Kevin rushed to the fallen rider’s side to await help. Seeing a champion on the ground with a major injury can easily have a negative effect on the performance of others, as many of today’s top riders reported. Benavides, on the other hand, rode even harder in honor of his fallen friend, who had urged him to push on. After the 23+ minutes he lost during Walkner’s rescue were deducted from Benavides’s final time, the Argentine found himself with the stage win, and very fine chance of winning his second Dakar. 

Rider Spotlight: Kirsten Landman

There probably aren’t too many riders on this year’s Dakar roster who listed baking as a favorite activity, and even fewer in the rally’s hard wrenching and riding Original by Motul class. Meet South African KTM rider Kirsten Landman, who is very close to finishing her second Dakar, having come in a hugely respectable 55th in 2020. 

Kirsten, age 32, began riding at age 8 and by age 22 was competing professionally. Since then she has become a top female rider who favors technical courses and extreme riding and has earned powerful results in major international events like Red Bull Romaniacs, Sea to Sky, Megawatt 111 and Braveman, the Motul Roof of Africa and X-Race Namibia. 

Back at Dakar for 2023, Kristen is riding a KTM 450 Rally Replica and currently ranks 12th in the unassisted Original by Motul category. A favorite in the bivouac, her strength, humanity and determination are the focus of the new Dakar video portrait: Kirsten Landman: The Challenge of Her Life. 

“This is definitely my class,” she says of Original by Motul. “I love the challenge of hard riding — mechanically, mentally, physically — it ticks all the boxes that make me do this sport.” In fact the unassisted category is the reason she returned to the Dakar. She says she was looking for the “full Dakar experience” and we can see in the video she has absolutely found it.

Kirsten says finishing the Dakar unassisted will be the most rewarding thing she’ll ever achieve. “It’s so hard, but it’s so rewarding,” she says. “When you cross that finish line every day you know you’ve done it all on your own. You worked on your own bike, you didn’t have any help and you got there. Every day I feel like I’ve won a gold medal at the Olympics, that’s how good it feels.”  

Stage 13 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 13 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings


January 13, 2023: Stage 12

Dakar’s elite professional riders were a long way from their climate controlled RVs, chefs, masseuses and physical therapists last night, sleeping in tents outside in the dunes alongside the rough and tumble privateers. The day broke to sunny skies with the promise of mild temperatures as riders readied for the return trip to Saudi oil field outpost, Shaybah, which lies on the edge of the Empty Quarter a mere 10 km from the border of Emirate, Abu Dhabi. 

More massive, soft dunes interspersed with sprawling dry lakes were on the menu for the relatively short 185 km timed special, testing competitors’ fortitude as they race toward the close of this year’s Dakar, the top three contenders neck and neck. 

While three-time stage winner Luciano Benavides opened today’s dune fest, he was overtaken by Daniel Sanders around the 60 km mark and lost wind from there. Despite setting off with a 3 minute bonus, Luciano, who complained of feeling sea sick in the dunes, landed in 12th for the day, 4 minutes and 20 seconds behind stage winner Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, aka Nacho, riding for Honda. This is the 28-year-old Chilean’s 7th Dakar, last year finishing in 6th, though his best was a 4th in 2020. Jose is currently in 8th spot overall. 

José Ignacio Cornejo was the man of the day during the second part of the marathon stage at the Empty Quarter. Photo: HRC

GasGas rider Daniel Sanders got the second fastest time in the stage, 49 seconds behind Nacho in today’s special. The Aussie, freshly back to competition after a long recovery from a shattered elbow suffered in last year’s Dakar, has been plagued with physical maladies including a nasty stomach bug and a possibly infected thorn embedded in his right forearm, right in the extensor muscle responsible for throttle control. Despite his discomfort, Sanders opened the way for the rest of the field, carving a precise path through trackless territory for more than 120 km. Sanders is currently in 7th position overall.  

Daniel Sanders: I’m slowly getting a little bit better in the dunes, getting back into the rhythm. My arm is not too good. It’s pretty painful today. We’ll go back and see if the thorn is coming out because today was very painful.”

KTM’s 2-time Dakar champ Toby Price is doing his thing. A fan-favorite, the Aussie has been known to hold a controlled, strategic pace before pouncing for the win in the final stages. Price began the 2nd day of the marathon in 3rd position and finished the same, a strong performance that was rewarded by a jump from 2nd to 1st position on the main leaderboard. Price will need to 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 on securing his third Dakar title.

Toby Price has struck a major blow by taking control of the Dakar, but only by 28’’ in front of Skyler Howes. Photo: KTM

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 really close 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.”

Price’s KTM teammate Matthias Walkner popped back into the bright lights today, taking 4th in the special. The 8-time (all top 10) Dakar rider who won in 2018 and finished 3rd last year, suffered a wrist injury early on after a nasty, high speed crash in the rocks. Then, during Stage 9 the Austrian got seriously lost and tumbled out of contention, though today’s strong showing does move him from 10th to 9th spot overall. 

Matthias Walkner: “It was a super-nice stage today…quite intense, not so long, but with all the soft sand you have to push a lot and it’s still very physical. 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!”

Securing a fifth-place finish on stage 12, Kevin Benavides closed the gap slightly on the provisional rally lead and remains in third place overall. Photo: KTM

Fifth in today’s stage was KTM pilot Kevin Benavides, who flew in 2 minutes and 40 seconds behind stage winner Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo. The 34-year-old from Argentina maintained his 3rd place position in the general standings, and remains less than 3 minutes from today’s overall leader, Toby Price. Kevin is banking on the advantage of having four top-shelf riders set out ahead of him, marking the way during the penultimate stage.  

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.”

American Skyler Howes who was the Rally’s leader going into Stage 12 arrived in Shaybah in 6th position for the stage. The lost seconds bumped the Husqvarna rider from 1st to 2nd in the overall times, where he’s now sandwiched between Toby Price and Kevin Benavides. All three men are less than 3 minutes apart, but the gap between Price and Howes is a truly scant 28 seconds. The rest of the top ten contenders are all 15 minutes or more behind these top dogs.

Skyler Howes was the sixth quickest and now lies second in the overall standings. Photo: Husqvarna

Skyler Howes:  “It’s really exciting to go into the last couple days with the race so close. I was able to preserve myself and the bike without any issues, which is super important. So now I’m looking ahead at the last two stages of the race. Neither of them are very long, so with things so tight on the leaderboard, I really think this battle is going to run right up to the finish line.”

Tomorrow’s course will include the riders’ last taste of dune riding as they sprint through a quick 154 km special near Shaybah, followed by a taxing 521 km liaison to Al-Hofuf. Steady will be the day’s mantra as the top riders attempt to preserve their bodies and machines while squirreling away the precious seconds that will likely continue to separate bronze and silver from the gold. 

Update on Joan Barreda

Favorite of fans and fellow riders, Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda’s long running quest to become a Dakar champion is the definition of tenacity. We can confirm that Barreda’s latest undoing, a high-speed crash 16 km into Stage 9 resulted in a fracture of his L2 vertebra that will take months to heal. Of his 12 Dakar entries, the mayhem-prone Spanish rider finished 7 of those, collecting a whopping 30 stage victories along the way. 

Where’s Mason Klein?

Mason Klein has been dealing with physical issues after several falls in previous stages. Photo: Julien Defosse/ASO

Just days ago, young American Mason Klein and his potential for a podium finish was on everyone’s lips. After all, last year he was the reigning rookie from Rally2 who placed 9th overall at just 20 years of age. This year Klein is riding as a privateer with BAS World KTM Racing for his debut in RallyGP and set a blistering pace up until Stage 8, where he enjoyed sitting in 3rd place on the main leaderboard over the rest day. Then things got dicey. He fell twice in Stage 9, losing his roadbook along the way. Klein then went on to reportedly follow too closely behind Honda rider Adrien Van Beveren, rear-ending the Frenchman during a transition, which sent them both tumbling. During the Empty Quarter marathon neck issues dogged the rising star, and while an X-ray didn’t reveal the cause of the trouble, physical issues and the marathon section’s challenging conditions merged to see Klein end the day today 42nd. He is, however, clinging to 10th overall, trailing nearly one hour behind the frontrunner. 

Mason Klein: “I feel like I’m not tired, but my head just hurts to hold it up. Every dune, when I go down, I feel like my head won’t go back, like I can barely hold my head.”

Stage 10 Top 12 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 10 Top 12 Overall Motorcycle Rankings


January 12, 2023: Stage 11

According to Nasa satellite mapping, the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter, a desert roughly the size of France, is the largest sand sea in the world. Today, the Dakar riders traveled deep into its dunes during part one of the 2023 event’s two-day marathon stage. After a brief 153 km liaison, things got serious with 274 km spent in a remote desert landscape consisting primarily of tall, soft dunes, but interspersed with several sections of dry salt lake beds which encouraged riders to gain ground, flying their 450s across the landscape up to the Dakar’s stated maximum speed of 160 km/h (99.5 mph). 

Some riders love a sandy medium while others dread its risks and unpredictability, and today, preventing damage to the bikes was also top of mind since there would be no service teams at the night’s primitive bivouac. In fact, upon arrival, riders were allowed just 30 minutes to deal with any tweaks or bike maintenance. The aim of this forced scarcity being a leveling of the playing field between the generously resourced corporate teams and the privateer competitors, if only for a single night. 

The combination of sandy and flat-out conditions turned out to be ideal for Luciano Benavides, who started in 12th position with plenty of tracks to follow, grabbed his 3rd stage win on the way to the Empty Quarter bivouac, winning the day by 1 minute and 38 seconds. The result moves Luciano higher in the general standings to 6th overall. Luciano said the dunes today reminded him of MX riding, one of his passions since childhood, and he enjoyed riding fast and pushing hard, though he’s also aware that leading the way into trackless dunes tomorrow morning might not be the best scenario. 

With his third stage victory on this Dakar, Luciano Benavides is the rider with the most impressive roll of honor since the start of the rally. Photo: Husqvarna

Luciano Benavides:I think it wasn’t ideal to win today, but I feel really confident with my navigation, like I did yesterday opening the stage, so if I have to do that, then of course I’m happy to be here.” 

Rolling in just a little over a minute-and-a-half  behind Luciano was GasGas rider Daniel Sanders, whose smooth performance in today’s first half of the marathon stage moved him from 9th to 7th in the general rankings. After avoiding a potential navigational error, keeping a steady pace and preserving his RX450F were top of mind. And according to sponsor Husqvarna, after his arrival to the bivouac and a check through the bike, both are “ready for another day of sand surfing through the Empty Quarter.”

Daniel Sanders: “Today wasn’t too bad. It took a little while for me to get up to speed and then around 40 km there was a tricky note in the roadbook. It was pretty hot and demanding, but it was good fun. The big dunes were alright. There weren’t too many big drops out there, like slip faces. There were a lot of dry beds which were fast, so that gave us a little break. After [refueling] I rode with Luciano for the rest of the stage which was good fun…to get to ride together and eat some sand in the dunes.”

Today’s third place finisher was Toby Price, who started the day in 19th position. His performance elevated him from 3rd to 2nd place in the general rankings, and he will begin tomorrow only 28 seconds behind current Dakar leader Skyler Howes. For Price, strategy in the dunes is everything, hence his holding back yesterday in order to leave the trailblazing to the top stage finishers. 

Toby Price is now 2nd in the general rankings the day before the end of the marathon stage, only 28 seconds behind Skyler Howes. Photo: KTM

Toby Price: “Starting back a little bit definitely helped today. I did make a little mistake early on, like a couple of the guys in front, but was able to correct it pretty quickly and carry on. I just took it quite steady – pushed where it was safe to do so and then eased off a bit to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I’m feeling in good shape and the bike is perfect, so no issues there. I’ll be third away for tomorrow, which isn’t too bad, so I’ll keep on fighting and see where we end up.”

Skyler Howes finished the day in 4th position after a start from the 15th spot. The Husqvarna riding American quickly gained ground, catching his teammate Luciano Benavides before a few minor issues midday created a two minute deficit. Still, the strong finish on his FR450 Rally earned him a move back into the top spot of the overall leaderboard, though with a mere 28 second advantage over current second place holder, Toby Price. 

Skyler’s 4th fastest time in the stage moves him back to the top spot overall. Photo: Husqvarna

Skyler Howes: “I found a good rhythm out there and was making good progress. I did get stuck in the soft sand on a couple of dunes and had to turn around to attack those again. There was one waypoint that I had to circle around to get properly as well. The bike is in great condition, which is great for the marathon stage, I just need to stay focused because the times in the standings are really close. I think it’s going to be like this all the way to the finish, which makes it pretty exciting.”

Legendary Dakar rider Pablo Quintanilla, who has managed 9 top 10 finishes over the last 10 Dakars (6 of those in the top 5), took the 5th spot in part 1 of the marathon special. The Chilean Honda CRF450 Rally rider started in 6th spot for the stage, and his strong performance bumped him from 5th to 4th position in the overall rankings.

Yesterday’s overall leader, KTM rider Kevin Benavides, was one of the first riders onto the dunes today with few reliable tracks to follow. While he made good time through the first half of Stage 11, his pace eventually dropped off, leading to a 19th place finish for the day. As a result Kevin drops from first to third overall in the rankings, though it remains a very tight top three, with leader Skyler Howes enjoying a 3 minute lead over the elder Benavides, but only a 28 second cushion away from Toby Price. However, with Howes and Price are both leading the way tomorrow, there’s a good chance Benavides 19th position start will become advantageous. 

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 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.”

Original by Motul Update

Javi Vega leads the Malle Moto/Original by Motul category. Photo: ASO

There are still 16 riders in the completely unassisted Original by Motul category, with Spaniard Javi Vega riding a WR450F Yamaha in the lead, ahead of South African Husqvarna pilot, Charan Moore, by 9 minutes and 13 seconds. In third position is Mario Patrao on a KTM Rally, though the Portuguese rider, with 6 Dakar finishes to his name, trails the leader by a gaping 1 hour and 5 minutes. 

Kove Moto Still in the Game

Dakar newcomer Kove Moto, a fresh manufacturer out of China on track to bring its Dakar spec’d 450 Rally Pro to the States, still has all three of its factory supported bikes in the race. This is a true trial by fire for the ambitious manufacturer, knowing full well that just finishing Dakar will earn its bikes instant street cred. So far the gamble is paying off. Kove Moto plans to sell its street legal rally replica for $8,999, while its Dakar-spec’d Pro counterpart will go for $14,500. An interesting new option, indeed.

Stage 10 Top 11 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 10 Top 11 Overall Motorcycle Rankings

January 11, 2023: Stage 10

Dakar riders headed deep into Saudi Arabia’s infamous Empty Quarter today for the first of four days of dune riding with yesterday’s overall leaders Skyler Howes and Toby Price separated by a mere three seconds — not much longer than the time it takes to miss a shift. The day began with a blurry-eyed 3:30 a.m. departure on a 467-kilometer liaison that led riders to the start of the stage’s short 114 km timed special.

Yesterday’s stage winner Luciano Benavides led the way through the blank canvas of steep dunes, with Toby Price and Skyler Howes in tow, their tracks making it easier for others to follow. While today’s special section might look short on paper, it was an energy-zapping and inherently dangerous undertaking for riders.

Ross Branch clocked the fastest time in the stage, adding the second victory to his tally in this Dakar. Photo: Hero Motosports

The end of Wednesday’s Stage 10 saw another big shuffle in the stage results, with Botswanan Hero Motosports rider, Ross Branch, aka the “Ferrari of the Kalahari,” since he trains year-round in the Kalahari desert, narrowly taking the win, his second for the event. It was an extra impressive result considering he started the day in 28th position. However, a mere 21 seconds later Adrien Van Beveren finished the course, with Dakar rookie Michael Docherty, riding his Husqvarna, only 9 seconds behind. In fact the entire top ten finished within 4 minutes of Ross, exemplifying how no one has this Dakar safely in the bag. 

While Monster Energy Honda rider Adrien Van Beveren started the day in 16th position, he quickly became one of the fastest riders, reaching the first checkpoint 5 seconds ahead of overall rally leader, KTM Factory team’s Kevin Benavides. Van Beveren kept up his swift pace throughout the special to grab second place. Van Beveren is a three-time winner of Red Bull’s Enduropale du Touquet hard enduro, a mostly beach sand course, so he is also feeling at home in the Empty Quarter. His second place stage finish today keeps the Frenchman in 4th place overall. 

Adrien Van Beveren:  “This was a good day for me, much better than yesterday for sure. I gave everything, trying to be fast riding on the dunes – a terrain that I love. I really push and I am happy with the outcome. I am ok physically, unfortunately it was only 114 kilometers, but we have more chances in the coming days.” 

South African Husky Rally2 rider Michael Docherty is also comfortable in the sand having lived and trained for years in the nearby Emirates and performed well in the 2021 and 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenges (see Performance of the Day) held in the same region of dunes. After starting in 21st place today, the Dakar rookie had beaten Van Beveren’s sprint to the first checkpoint and went on to gather the leaders, earning himself a place on the elites’ podium for the first time. 

KTM’s Kevin Benavides snatched the overall lead from Skyler after placing 4th in today’s stage. Photo: Rally Zone.

Dakar 2021 champion Kevin Benavides finished 4th in today’s stage, which puts the Argentinian in first place overall. After a respectable 7th place finish in yesterday’s Stage 9, which saw many elites tumble far down the stage leaderboard due to its navigational challenges, Kevin was the seventh rider into dunes first lanced by his little brother, Stage 9 winner, Luciano Benavides.

Carrying good speed over the sandy terrain, the elder Benavides was just 10 seconds down on the leader by kilometer 84. Losing a little time after an over-the-bar crash late in the stage, Benavides dropped to fourth place as he crossed the line, exactly one minute after stage winner Ross Branch. However, with times tight across the top 10, Kevin’s solid ride moved him into the lead of the rally, where he enjoys a very small, 1 ½ minute advantage.

Kevin Benavides: “Today was really short, but really tough physically as it was raced all in the dunes. I started off in seventh position and just tried to keep a nice flow through all the dunes and it felt really good. I did have one crash where I went over the handlebars, but it seems it might have had a positive effect because I only lost about one minute.”

Behind Kevin Benavides in the overall standings are Skyler Howes and Toby Price, both who decided to take it super easy in today’s introduction to the Empty Quarter, getting used to the dunes and saving their energy — and top 3 overall standings — ahead of tomorrow’s Marathon Stage 11.

The famously mustachioed Husqvarna-riding Howes, who placed 2nd in yesterday’s challenging Stage 9, dropped out of the lead trio early after he “put on some style for the helicopter but messed up the landing” (double ouch), but in the end Howes was happy with his 15th place position. This result shouldn’t be confused with slow, however, since he crossed the finish just 7 minutes 30 seconds behind the stage winner.   

After enduring a fall during the stage, Howes is now second overall, 1’30” behind Kevin Benavides. Photo: Husqvarna

Skyler Howes: ”Today was 100% dunes. We went into two tiny valleys to validate some checkpoints, but otherwise some really technical dunes. Yeah, a short stage, but still demanding. I just wanted to make it through this stage today and get ready for the marathon stage. On short stages like this, you can definitely lose it, but trying to win it is not necessary.”

Two time Dakar champion Toby Price, who started the day in 2nd position dropped back after a crash then held a steady pace in the Empty Quarter, arriving 16th for the stage, 8 minutes off the winning time. By taking little risk, the Australian KTM factory rider left the top spot of the general standings to Kevin Benavides, though he is, however, a mere 2 minutes behind Kevin Benavides on the main leaderboard.

In fact all the three top riders in the event are virtually deadlocked, with just just a little over 2 minutes separating them.

Toby Price: Today was a long day – we were up at 2:30 a.m., but then just a short special. I tried to pace myself a little today to make sure I didn’t make any big mistakes and to also get a good start for tomorrow’s longer stage. I dropped down a little in the standings, but didn’t lose too much time, and now hopefully I’m well-placed to attack tomorrow. So far so good.”

Tomorrow’s Sheybah to Ardah Marathon Stage 11 promises to be a king maker…or breaker. After a 153 km liaison, riders will face 274 km of endless dunes. And with such a tight group at the top it will be crucial to set a brave pace, yet at the same time riders will need to protect their equipment since there will be no support crews or trucks at night’s remote bivouac.  

Performance of the Day

South African Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) claims Dakar’s Performance of the Day for Stage 10. After making a huge impression in the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge with a dream start in the first two stages (he crashed out soon after), the ex motocross racer is likewise stirring talk of his potential at this year’s Dakar. Riding with support-for-hire HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing for his Dakar debut, Docherty won his third Rally 2 sub-category stage today, despite hurting his wrist yesterday in a crash. Even more importantly, he became the first Rally 2 rider to climb onto the elite podium in this Dakar. Docherty flew over the dunes, arriving just 30 seconds behind stage winner Ross Branch and 9 second behind Adrien Van Beveren. Docherty is currently in 4th position in the Rally 2 category and 19th overall. 

Stage 10 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 10 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings


January 10, 2023: Stage 9

As the second week of the 2023 Dakar kicked off with the riders departing Saudi capital city Riyadh headed for Haradh fresh off a rest day, the top six riders were within three minutes of one another. And while organizers had warned Stage 9 would be a tricky test of navigational skills as participants negotiated technically challenging washes, rivers, canyons and dunes, no one could have predicted how wildly the stage rankings would be reshuffled, mainly due to navigation issues suffered by some of the leaders early in the 358 km special, though the day also brought some crashes, including a helicopter ride for Joan Barreda (see Down For The Count), ending his 13th Dakar.

The 686 km day kicked off with Hero Rider Ross Branch, winner of Stage 8, opening the way with Aussie GasGas rider Daniel “Chucky” Sanders and rising star, American KTM rider Mason Klein fast on his heels. By the first checkpoint, Mason and Ross were riding together, though their lead, nor luck would hold, with both being tripped up by roadbook issues and crashes later on. For Mason, it started with losing his roadbook early in the stage after a fall. The setbacks led him to come in the 22nd spot for the day, dropping down to 9th overall after being in 3rd position for the start. 

Mason Klein lost his roadbook at the beginning of the special after a fall. He fell again at the end of the special, after hitting Ross Branch, according to him. Photo: A.S.O.

Mason Klein: “I don’t really know, I think I crashed somewhere near 300 km. I just kind of don’t remember what happened. I remember that I ran into someone; I think it was Ross. I think we came together. It’s just my arm that kind of hurts, so we’ve wrapped it up. My roadbook fell out of my vest at the beginning of the race, for the second half. I felt like for the whole time we were going slowly because I wasn’t doing any navigating. I didn’t know if the navigation was difficult or not. I just had to sit with everybody. Because of that we were all riding really close, making the chances of running into each other a lot higher, I guess. I feel okay, but I think I lost my helmet visor at the beginning of the day, I don’t really know.”

Other top riders caught circling back were Honda rider Adrien Van Beveren, who wound up in the 14th spot for the stage, but moved to 4th position overall. Another Honda Pilot, Pablo Quintanilla, arrived in 18th position for the day, but retained his 5th place standing in the overall count. 

Husqvarna Factory riders, Luciano Benavides and current Dakar points leader Skyler Howes both riding FR 450 Rallys had great days, paying close attention their road books and riding together much of the way before Luciano won the day, earning his second stage victory of the rally, with Skyler timing into 3rd position for the stage. 

Luciano Benavides clocks the fastest time of the stage making him the first double stage winner in the category this year. Photo: Husqvarna

Luciano Benavides: “I’m really happy. I cannot believe I won again, and to be the first rider at this Dakar to win twice [so far in 2023] feels incredible. It was a really hard stage with a lot of navigation – you really had to focus on your road book to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. There were a lot of broken tracks and different lines, so it was easy to take a slightly wrong line. Now I am opening the stage tomorrow, so it will be full gas all the way to the finish.”

Skyler Howes: “The stage today was pretty tricky. We hit a section where we were missing one waypoint and it was in a place deep with stones and a lot of mud. It was tough to navigate through there and I knew we were going off the CAP heading a little, so I had to circle around to get back on track. Luciano caught up with me then and riding together we really put the charge on, partly because I thought I had lost a lot more time than I had. We did a good job all the way from the refueling to the finish.”

Two-time Dakar champ and Red Bull KTM Factory rider Toby Price also had an excellent Stage 9, taking the 2nd spot after coming in just over one minute behind stage winner Luciano Benavides. Price’s performance saw him move up to second overall in the provisional standings, only three seconds behind Skyler Howes.

Toby Price: “Yeah, it’s been a good day for me. It looks like the boys in front got lost just before the refuel. I navigated through there really good, so that meant I was able to make up some minutes. I just tried to push on a bit today, I was trying really hard to keep up a fast pace but not make any big mistakes. All in all, I felt really good today, it’s nice to feel fresh after the rest day. It looks like tomorrow will be mostly all sand, so we’ll try our best there and see where we end up.”

Price’s KTM teammate 2021 Dakar champion Kevin Benavides was proud of his brother Luciano’s stage win but found himself 7th in the stage, which saw him drop from 2nd overall to 3rd position. Again, navigation was a sore point.

Kevin Benavides’ navigation troubles drop him down 1 spot in the overall standings, now sitting in 3rd for tomorrow’s stage. Photo: Rally Zone

Kevin Benavides: “Today was a really hard stage with a lot of navigation. I tried my best to make a good pace and focus on my road book. I pushed really hard right from the beginning but then lost a bit of time with a really complicated note in the road book – thankfully not as much as some of the riders ahead of me. After that I pushed on towards the finish and had a good, trouble-free ride.” 

Team Red Bull KTM’s third rider, previously injured Matthias Walkner, arrived in 27th position after getting caught up in the same navigation issues that put so many top riders down on the Stage 9 leaderboard. Walkner moves from 10th to 11th position overall.

Two more riders who made it through the Stage without major roadbook issues or crashes were Spain’s Tosha Schareina, riding with the support of BAS World KTM Racing who snagged an impressive 4th in the stage, and 2022 World Rally Championship runner-up, Frenchman, Romain Dumontier who napped 5th place in a challenging Stage 9. Romain had stopped to help an injured Joan Barreda early in the special, an act the Dakar thankfully accounts for, allowing anyone who assists in an injury accident to recover the time once the Stage is done. 

Tomorrow’s 624 km stage will see Luciano Benavides, Toby Price and Skyler Howes lighting the way to the infamous dunes of Saudi Arabia’s aptly named Empty Quarter, with overall top riders Kevin Benavides, Adrien Van Beveren, Pablo Quintanilla and Mason Klein working hard in the sand to make up for all the time lost in a very tricky Stage 9. With the extremely narrow margins in the leaderboard, this Dakar is totally up for grabs. 

Down For the Count

Dakar veteran Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda suffered a hard crash just 16 km into the Stage 9 special and had to be airlifted to a Riyadh hospital. His injuries seemed mostly to involve his back, with other riders reporting seeing him laid out and later loaded on a spine board. This was Joan’s 13th Dakar and it wasn’t an easy go for the 40 year old, with an early crash causing a painful broken toe, and another get-off that involved a hit to the head. Yet he kept on rocking his Honda for Monster Energy JB TEAM until this forced end. While this is the sixth time Joan has exited the rally prematurely (his nickname is Bang Bang after all), he was awarded 5th place finishes in 2017 and 2022. We’ll keep you posted with any medical updates. 

Stage 9 Top 10 Motorcycle Rankings

Stage 9 Top 10 Overall Motorcycle Rankings


January 9, 2023: Rest

Riders have reached the rest day in Riyadh after eight demanding stages disrupted by difficult weather conditions. Between changes to the routes and torrential rain, the competitors have covered 2794 km against the clock. They still have 1214 km over which to do battle before the finish in Dammam, but before then they will have the formidable task of tackling the dunes in the Empty Quarter.

The rally in the bike category started with two favorites crashing out: firstly, title holder Sam Sunderland on stage 1, then the next day it was the turn of 2020 Dakar winner Ricky Brabec, who crashed while leading the general rankings. However, there is no need for the USA to fly its flags at half-mast. The other Californian, 21-year-old Mason Klein, on his first steps in the RallyGP category, picked up the torch the next day to dominate the rally hierarchy with youthful energy before in turn witnessing “Chucky” Sanders take control. The Australian, who is taking part in his third Dakar, led the general rankings for two days before falling ill.

At the rather tender age of 21 years, Mason Klein is currently in 3rd place overall, even though he has only recently joined the Rally GP category.

The last official rider enrolled by the teams of the Austrian clan, Skyler Howes, took over the summit of the rally for four consecutive days. On the rest day, the American leader may well hide his smile behind his retro moustache worn as a tribute to his grandfather, but there has indeed been a takeover by the emerging generation that has wrung out its opponents among the rains that have fallen during this first week..

However, when initially taking stock in Riyadh, the rankings that put Skyler Howes ahead of Kevin Benavides and Mason Klein are less revealing than the seconds that separate them on the provisional podium. After more than 30 hours 34 minutes and 16 seconds against the clock, the Husqvarna rider only boasts a lead of 13’’ over the official KTM rider and the BAS World KTM Racing privateer who are literally neck and neck, an unprecedented situation at this point in the race. Toby PricePablo Quintanilla and Adrien Van Beveren behind them are less than three minutes from the leader’s position.

With the top 6 within three minutes of each other, there promises to be plot twists in the Empty Quarter – a giant sand pit where everyone is waiting to see if the young generation can continue to lead the battle.


    1 2 3     Next Page >>

Author: ADV Pulse Staff
ADVERTISEMENT

Related Stories

Related Stories

Notify me of new posts via email

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
ADVERTISEMENT

Watch: 2024 Honda XL750 Transalp Tested

The Transalp returns to the Honda lineup after a three-decades-long absence i...

Ricky Carmichael's Epic Adventure Out West On Triumph Tiger 1200s

Ricky Carmichael might be the winningest motocross racer of all time, but h...

Field Tested: Mosko Moto ‘Nomax’ V3.0 Hydration Tank Bag

When devising a solution to any given problem, there are two common choices; to...