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Jose Cornejo Snares Victory On Stage Twelve Of The 2023 Dakar Rally While Toby Price Takes Overall Lead

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Photo of rally rider Jose Ignacio Cornejo in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
Jose Ignacio Cornejo on his way to a win on stage twelve of the 2023 Dakar Rally. Photo: Rally Zone

José Ignacio Cornejo has taken victory on stage twelve of the 2023 Dakar Rally ahead of Australian duo Daniel Sanders and Toby Price with Price taking the overall lead with two stages remaining.

With two stages remaining Price has put himself in an ideal situation for the win but American Skyler Howes and Kevin Benavides still within striking distance.

For this second part of the marathon stage in the famed Empty Quarter, the route was similar to that of yesterday, large dunes intersecting the immensity of the desert and the large plateaus, 185 kilometers of special and a long liaison of more than 300 kilometers.

On the arrival at Shaybah bivouac, José Ignacio Cornejo was 49 seconds faster than Daniel Sanders and had 1:48 minutes to Toby Price. The Chilean now lies eighth overall in the standings.

“Well today I had a good stage, quite solid,” Cornejo said. ” I felt quite good on my Honda CRF 450 Rally and tried to push as much as I could. I had a lot of fun in the dunes. I have won a stage and that feels good, especially for my confidence. This did not influence the overall results due to the short distances between all contenders, so I kept my eighth place. I will keep fighting in the last two days because this is Dakar and anything can happen. ”

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
Daniel Sanders bounced back to his giant killing form missing the stage twelve win by a mere 49 seconds. Photo: Rally Zone

Delivering what just might be his best performance of the entire Dakar Rally Daniel Sanders combined pinpoint navigation with his blistering pace to post the second-fastest time. Clocking in just 49 seconds from victory, it was an incredible performance considering that Sanders opened almost all of the special, which left wheel tracks in the dunes for his chasing rivals to follow. Impressive stuff indeed and a clear indication of just what the Aussie’s capable of out there in the desert. Nice work, Daniel!

“Yeah, today was pretty good actually,” Sanders reflected. “It was a fun stage and early on I caught up with Luciano Benavides. I had a decent pace going so I kept that up and opened the stage all day. I’m happy to reach the finish line today with it being the second leg of the marathon stage and I’m looking forward to the final two days.”

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
With third on stage 12 duel winner Toby Price has taken the overall lead and is in the best position to make it three Dakar wins. Photo: Rally Zone

Completing the second leg of the marathon stage without issue, Toby Price covered the 185-kilometer timed special on stage 12 in just under two hours. More importantly, Price not only made up time on his closest rivals in the race for victory, but he also regained the overall rally lead and will have two other riders to chase down on tomorrow’s penultimate stage 13.

Racing at the front of the field remains incredibly close with Toby leading the general rankings by a narrow margin of just under 30 seconds. The two-time Dakar champion will 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 firmly on securing his third title at the world’s toughest rally-raid.

“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,” Price said. “I wasn’t sure of the result when I came into the finish today, but it looks like I’m back on top, leading the race. It’s a really close race 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.”

Photo of rally rider Matthias Walkner in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
Fourth on stage Matthias Walkner may be out of the running for the overall win bit is still looking for a stage win. Photo: Rally Zone

Enjoying his time in the Empty Quarter dunes, Matthias Walkner found the terrain very much to his liking. And, feeling comfortable, was able to push hard through the stage to finish in an excellent fourth place. Currently in ninth position overall, although the fight for the podium might now be out of reach for the Austrian, the Austrian will continue to fight for solid stage results, giving his all as usual on what is his ninth Dakar appearance.

“It was a super-nice stage today,” Walkner said. “Honestly, the dunes here in the Empty Quarter are really, really nice. It was quite intense, not so long, but with all the soft sand you have to push a lot and it’s still very physical. As we ride more here it becomes easier to judge and read the terrain. Nacho (Cornejo) caught me today and it was such good fun riding through the dunes together. 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!”

Photo of rally rider Kevin Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
After finishing fifth on stage twelve Kevin Benavides remains in a strong position in third overall with 2:30 minutes to make up. Photo: Rally Zone

Securing a solid fifth-place finish on stage twelve, Kevin Benavides closed the gap slightly on the provisional rally lead and remains in third place overall, two minutes and 40 seconds down. The Argentine racer will also have the advantage of another four riders starting ahead of him on tomorrow’s special where he will aim to make up as much time as possible before then attacking the final stage of the race on Sunday.

“The marathon stage went really well for me,” Benavides said. “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.”

Photo of rally rider Skyler Howes in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage twelve
Skyler Howes finished as the sixth quickest and dropped to second in the overall standings – just 28 seconds off the lead after close to 41 hours of racing. Photo: Rally Zone

Despite the pressure of being well in the fight for victory at the 2023 Dakar Rally, Skyler Howes delivered another cool, calculated ride to finish in sixth position and minimise his deficit to the provisional rally leader Toby Price. His stand-out ride at this year’s event continues as the likable American now lies in a strong second overall, and with his two closest rivals starting ahead of him on tomorrow’s stage 13, Skyler is perfectly placed to attack.

“A good stage for me today,” Howes reflected. “The Empty Quarter really does live up to its name – just an endless sea of dunes. It’s really exciting to go into the last couple of days with the race so close. Both halves of the marathon stage went well – I think I was able to ride both days at a good, consistent pace. 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.”

With only two more days to go, tomorrow it’s time for the 13th stage. There will be a very long liaison of 520 kilometers in the connection between Shaybah and Al-Hofuf. The special section will be 153 km long and this departure from the Empty Quarter will certainly be decisive. It will be the last chance to surf on its chain of dunes and also to fight for the top standings. It will be a short but quite intense ride where physical and mechanical endurance can play an important role.

Toby Price with nothing but sand ahead of him in the empty quarter.

2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 12 Provisional Classification
1 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 1:57:27
2 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 1:58:16
3 Toby Price (KTM) 1:59:25
4 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 1:59:32
5 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 1:59:49
6 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 2:00:21

2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 12]
1 Toby Price (KTM) 40:47:36
2 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 40:48:04
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 40:50:16
4 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 41:02:30
5 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 41:03:50
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 41:07:36
7 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 41:07:39

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