Toby Price has claimed his first stage win of the 2022 Dakar Rally beating home Luciano Benavides, who logged his best stage placing, and new overall leader Adrien Van Beveren on the tenth stage.
As the 2022 Dakar Rally enters its final stretch the frontrunners are starting to thin out with Adrien Van Beveren now holding an almost six-minute lead over Sam Sunderland while Pablo Quintanilla sits another minute back from the Brit. Matthias Walkner and Joan Barreda remain in contention less than ten minutes in arrears. Price moves up to sixth with his win but is an optimistic 28 minutes behind.
Kevin Benavides was a high profile retiree from the event following a mechanical problem with his KTM. The reigning Dakar Rally champion had been in contention for back-to-back Dakar wins as he sat fifth in the general classification following Tuesday’s Stage 9, just 10 minutes from the overall lead.
A long, 759-kilometre day in the saddle lay ahead of the riders as they entered stage 10 of the rally from Wadi Ad Dawasir to Bisha. The 375-kilometer timed special was mostly made up of fast sandy tracks, with a couple of dirt sections and dunes adding to the mix. Although navigation was relatively straightforward, it was still easy to make a costly mistake when picking a route through the stage.
Despite his relatively late start position into today’s special, Toby Price decided to remain completely focused on his roadbook throughout the stage. The tactic paid off as the two-time Dakar champ delivered a near-faultless run through the challenging stage, slowly moving up the order and taking the lead on time by kilometer 250. Price’s win moves him up to sixth in the provisional rally standings where he trails the current event leader by just under 28 minutes. A sizeable gap, but one the Aussie hopes to reduce over the final two days of racing.
“It’s been a really good day for me today,” Price enthused. “I focused on my roadbook the whole way and did a good job with my navigation with only a couple of small mistakes over the whole stage. I’ve moved nicely up the order overall, but there is still a bit of a gap to the front guys. As we know, anything can happen in rally, so I’ll give it my all for these last two days and we’ll see where we end up.”
Overcoming the difficulties on today’s stage, Luciano Benavides showed great maturity and skill to take maximum advantage of his seventh-place start position and pushed his way up through the field to ultimately challenge for the stage win. Completing the gruelling special just two minutes and nine seconds behind winner Toby Price, Benavides now moves up to 13th in the provisional overall standings.
Setting off second for tomorrow’s 346-kilometre special on stage 11, and aiming to chase down and catch Price ahead of him, Luciano will be keen to further improve his overall placing before going into the rally’s final day.
“I’m really pleased with my day today. It feels good to be right up there near the top and putting in the sort of results I know I’m capable of,” Benavides said. “I focused a lot on my navigation today, but there were still some tricky notes on the roadbook and some parts of the route were quite confusing. I made a couple of small mistakes, but the guys up front made mistakes too and it was possible for me to make up quite a lot of time over the whole stage. We have two days left now, so I’ll keep pushing and hopefully have a good, strong finish to the rally.”
Delivering his best result of the rally so far with a third-place finish, Adrien Van Beveren now returns to the head of the field in the provisional overall standings with a near six-minute advantage over Sam Sunderland in second.
Even with his less than favourable starting position on stage 10, Van Beveren set off ninth yet set a blistering pace to quickly reel in the leading riders. From there, the recently turned 31-year-old rode his own race, navigating superbly through the rocky canyons.
“Like every day I focused heavily on my roadbook and rode the stage with a strong pace throughout,” Van Beveren said. “Navigation wasn’t easy today, especially with so many canyons in places, but I did a really good job, I think. I did struggle to find a couple of waypoints but otherwise, it was another great stage for me. I went as fast as I could near the end and ended up in a good spot on the stage, and also in the overall. Tomorrow is a big day and opening will be difficult, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Lorenzo Santolino was another rider to have his best stage with the Spaniard logging the fourth-fastest time and moving to eleventh in the overall rankings.
Andrew Short also posted his best stage result by completing the special as the fifth fastest rider and now advances three spots in the overall rankings to seventh with two stages remaining.
“Stage 10 was really fun and I’m really happy to have posted my best result of the rally,” Short said. “It was a cool stage that flowed well with a bit of everything, rocks, canyons, some dunes, and even some dust which we haven’t, fortunately, seen too much of this year. I did make one small mistake which cost me a little bit of time, but not too much, so maybe my result would have been better without that. We’re getting close to the finish line now so two to go and I’m excited for tomorrow.”
Setting off as the fourth rider to enter today’s special, Overnight leader Matthias Walkner caught and passed the riders ahead of him by the halfway point, and from there had the unenviable task of opening what was arguably the toughest part of the stage. A couple of small errors ended up with the Austrian losing several minutes to his rivals, but despite the setback, Walkner still lies well within the top five overall and will enjoy a strong start position for tomorrow’s penultimate stage 11.
“The Dakar is always a little bit up and down and today after I hit the front, I lost some time with a couple of small mistakes,” Walkner explained. “The sun was really high today and it made visibility quite bad, which in turn made the pistes really difficult to see when you’re out front. It’s frustrating, but that’s always the way it is. Up to that point, I think I was riding really well and making up good time. We still have two very long stages to go, so I’ll get some rest tonight and then be ready to attack again tomorrow.
Frustratingly, an unfortunate mistake for Sam Sunderland in a series of rocky canyons prevented the early rally leader from featuring at the top of the timesheets today with 19th on stage. However, thanks to his impressive stage results through the first nine days, Sam remains well-placed in the provisional overall standings in second, just under six minutes behind the current leader.
“Day 10 is in the books and it was a tough one,” Sunderland said “Early on, Mason Klein crashed so I stopped to make sure he was ok as it looked like he’d had a big one, but I think he’s ok. I then set off and things were going good. I felt strong on the bike and my pace was solid. But then I ended up in the wrong canyon near the end and lost a bit of time. With two days to go and the times so close, it’s too close to call. It’s wide open so it certainly makes for an exciting race!”
Tomorrow will undoubtedly be one of the most interesting special stages of recent years, where several riders will make their bids for a final podium place in Jeddah the day after tomorrow. The battle will be epic. The loop to the Bisha bivouac will feature a total of 346 kilometres of timed section out of the 501-kilometre total stage with 155 kilometres of liaison sections. Large helpings of sand and dunes will be present on the menu of this, the most decisive stage of the Dakar 2022.
STAGE 10 TOP 20 RESULTS
TOP 20 OVERALL STANDINGS FOLLOWING STAGE 10