fourth placed Kevin Benavides too, was the centre of attention, given that after today‰Ûªs performance, the Argentine is a hair‰Ûªs breath away from taking the overall leadership, with just 22 seconds separating him from the leader Adrien Van Beveren. Kevin caught up with the Frenchman during the special and whittled three minutes off his advantage. The Argentine will certainly need no pepping up tomorrow as the rally reaches the rider‰Ûªs hometown of Saltas with hundreds of fans lining the route to cheer on the local hero.
"It's been a good day," Benavides reflected, "I started third and within a few kilometres I found myself opening the track with Adrien [Van Beveren], so we practically rode together all day. We were joined by Toby Price and Joan Barreda, who had gotten lost and found us. We finished in a pack. I was holding back a bit, knowing that I could not make much of a difference. I'm happy about that. Tomorrow we ride to Salta, my hometown; I really want to see my people, my family and recharge my batteries."
KTM's Stefan Svitko continues his good form in the 40th edition of the Dakar with a solid performance and a handy 5th place on today's stage.
Starting sixth this morning, Matthias Walkner maintained his position for the stage. The solid ride was enough for Walkner to move back up to third in the provisional overall standings, just one-minute ahead of his team-mate, Toby Price.
"That was a really tough couple of stages," Walkner reflected. "Yesterday we had a 300km liaison and the temperature was only two or three degrees. All the water on the timed special made it very dangerous to push as hard as I would have liked. Today the stage was not too bad, I lost a little time in one section, but managed to get that back at the end. The worst thing was for the entire 500km or so, I was riding on my own and that makes it difficult to push yourself to a good result. Nevertheless, I didn‰Ûªt make any mistakes and my finish was good so I am happy. Looking forward to Argentina, hopefully the stages will be fast WRC-style pistes ‰ÛÒ I do a lot better on that type of terrain and I think I can really start to push then.‰Û