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2021 Dakar Stage 9: Benavides takes stage victory as Toby Price crashes out

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Kevin Benavides claimed the top honours on the special stage and dedicated the win to the memory of his ex-team-mate Paulo Gon̤alves who was killed in the Saudi desert a year ago.
It was a Honda clean sweep on stage 9 of the 2021 Dakar Rally with Kevin Benavides, Ricky Brabec and Nacho Cornejo filling the top three spots while Aussie Toby Price was the big name casualty for the stage.

Unfortunately, while pushing hard, right at the front of the field, Price suffered a fall around the 155-kilometer mark and required medical attention. Airlifted to the hospital in Tabuk, and confirmed to have suffered a broken collarbone, the two-time Dakar winner will sadly play no further part in this year‰Ûªs event.

In better news for Australia Daniel Sanders carded another top ten with 9th on the stage an moved up to 6th overall.

Featuring a loop stage starting and finishing at the coastal city of Neom stage 9 covered a total distance of 579km, riders faced a 109km liaison that led into the 465km timed special. A mixture of fast gravel tracks and sandy valleys proved to be a huge challenge to all competitors as they made their way through the stage.


Following his stage win Kevin Benavides now occupies second place in the general standings, 11‰Ûª24‰Ûª‰Ûª behind Nacho Cornejo and pursued by Sam Sunderland in third.

‰ÛÏJust now I‰Ûªve received the news that my brother crashed, so I am so disappointed with that and I hope he is ok," Benavides said. "Also, today was a special day for me, one year on from Paulo‰Û_ So, I tried to push all day, to stay focused, to keep the speed up and not make mistakes. So, I think it was a good stage. Nacho did a good job. At the end I heard Toby also crashed, so it was a really dangerous day today. I am happy to be here okay and so is the bike. We have three more days to go and to continue fighting. We have a lot of kilometres left, so I think the strategy is to continue to be focused because everything can change in one second. For me, I'll take it day by day‰Û
Ricky Brabec had another strong finish with second on stage, the American lost time helping Toby Price but was given the time back at the end of the stage.
Distanced by his team-mates Nacho Cornejo and Kevin Benavides, defending champion Ricky Brabec is still in the reckoning for a podium finish after finishing second on today's stage.

‰ÛÏToday we had Toby go down and hit the dirt. He‰Ûªs a little bit injured, I think it‰Ûªs his left shoulder and left arm. He hit pretty hard on the left and didn‰Ûªt really know where he was. He asked me probably seven times where he was and who I was. I came across him and just hung out with him until the helicopter got there," Brabec said.

"What we do is dangerous, so it‰Ûªs unfortunate that he is out. We hope he‰Ûªs okay. It‰Ûªs something we have to think about every time we put the gear on each morning. It could be any of us. This day last year we lost a really good friend in Paulo and today Toby crashed and went out of the rally, but he‰Ûªs going to be ok.

"For sure, going on for the rest of the day was really difficult. The guys sent me on right behind Joan and Daniel Sanders, so I was stuck in the dust and I was really angry because I wasn‰Ûªt in the dust before I came across Toby. There was a three minute gap and we were just doing our own thing. I got stuck in the dust for a while and it kind of made me angry, so I just pushed and got around it. Then I kind of opened the stage with Joan the rest of the way. Me and Joan took turns opening and it was really fun. But things are shaking up, we‰Ûªve all got smoked tyres. There‰Ûªs three days left and stage 11 is going to be the longest one. Hopefully we‰Ûªve finished okay today‰Û
Third on stage for Nacho Cornejo was enough to extend his lead to 11‰Ûª24‰Ûª‰Ûª with the withdrawal of closest rival Toby Price.
The leader of the general standings Nacho Cornejo increased his advantage today with third place and now leads by 11‰Ûª24‰Ûª‰Ûª ahead of his nearest pursuer and team-mate Kevin Benavides.

‰ÛÏToday was tough, it was always going to be a long day and it was," Cornejo said. "All day pushing by myself was mentally exhausting. It needed a lot of self-motivation and self-conversation to keep going. We‰Ûªll see how the guys behind me have done. When you push to the limit, sometimes you make mistakes and this discipline is just like that. You have to be careful and try to control the danger as much as you can, but sometimes too many things happen: rocks, you‰Ûªre navigating, going fast‰Û_ it‰Ûªs tough to finish without any crashes‰Û
With fourth on stage and third overall Brit Sam Sunderland remains KTM's strongest hope now and with Toby Price out. Photo: Rally Zone.
Third overall coming into stage nine, Sam Sunderland was the fourth competitor to take to the start of the special. With times between the top riders being very close, the Brit successfully passed the first three checkpoints inside the top five. Two kilometers from the fifth checkpoint, Sam unfortunately came across teammate Toby Price who had crashed heavily and needed medical assistance. Staying with Price until he was airlifted to hospital, Sunderland then continued on with the remainder of the stage. Finishing in a commendable fourth place once his time lost helping Price was recovered, the 2017 Dakar Champion lies third in the provisional overall standings.

‰ÛÏObviously, it‰Ûªs been a pretty rough day today. I started off strong, and was making good progress, handling the tricky navigation well," Sunderland said. "Then I came across Toby lying in the riverbed with Brabec already stopped with him. I helped there till the helicopter arrived then set off again and tried to get back into a good rhythm. Around 100 kilometers or so after that I was opening up for the group I was with and was looking down at the road book, hit a rock and was sent over the handlebars. It was quite a big crash, quite a big impact, and luckily I wasn‰Ûªt too badly hurt. But I damaged the road book tower on the bike had no navigation from then on. I managed to reach the finish by following others but that‰Ûªs always hard. A really tough day for the team, but this is Dakar and it‰Ûªs always a challenge. We‰Ûªll regroup and do our best again tomorrow.‰Û
Daniel Sanders carded another top ten finish with ninth and is now sixth overall.
Daniel Sanders showed great speed throughout stage nine - the young Australian continuing to learn and improve his navigation and road book skills. Unfortunately, suffering a couple of crashes in the stage, Sanders lost a little time on his rivals.

‰ÛÏIt was a really hard day today," Sanders said. "It started off nice on the beach with some cool sand tracks and I got into a nice rhythm and felt good on the bike. Then at the 50-kilometer mark I had a crash in the rocks, snapped my gear lever and banged myself up pretty good. I got going again but had lost all the water out of my water pack, so it was a bit of a thirsty day today. Then when I came across Toby, I stopped quickly just to make sure he was ok before carrying on to the finish. I did have another crash, which bust the bike up a little, but I made it back ok. There‰Ûªs still three days to go, so let‰Ûªs see what happens tomorrow.‰Û
Aussie Michael Burgess had his best day so far finishing 28th and moving up to 30th overall
Aussie Michael Burgess once again topped his best stage result with a respectable 28th place and made up another five places in the overall and now lies 30th in the overall.

"It was probably my best day i ahve put in on the bike, i didn't really care what was going on around me. The day just went forever though," Burgess said

Stage 10 of the 2021 Dakar Rally, totaling 583km, heads south from Neom towards AlUla. On the 342km timed special, riders will have to carefully navigate the twisting, sandy tracks that lead through the picturesque valleys and rock formations of the area.
Toby Price in what looks like idyllic surroundings until a crash would end his 2021 Dakar further down the track.

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