Rallye

Kevin Benavides wins 2023 Dakar Stage 13 While Toby Price Retains Slender Overall Lead

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Photo of rally rider Kevin Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
Kevin Benavides endured a tough stage setting off fifth, the 2021 Dakar winner knew the penultimate stage of the event would offer the best chance to make up ground on his teammate Toby Price

Toby Price and Kevin Benavides lie first and second overall in the provisional standings at the 2023 Dakar Rally after Benavides took victory on the penultimate stage 13 ahead of Michael Docherty and Luciano Benavides.

After over 43 hours of racing, the Price and Benavides are separated by just 12 seconds with American Skyler Howes still in the mix 1:31 adrift of the leading duo.

Although stage 13 was a long one for the riders, coming in at a total of 675 kilometers, the distance raced against the clock was relatively short at 154 kilometers. The special was again made up predominantly of the rolling dunes of the Empty Quarter, and although navigation wasn’t too challenging, reading the terrain and maintaining a good pace was hugely important in order to secure a good result.

Kevin Benavides endured a tough stint in the desert today. Setting off fifth, the 2021 Dakar winner knew the penultimate stage of the event would offer the best chance to make up ground on his teammate, rival, and overall rally leader Toby Price. However, at around 55 kilometers into the special, Kevin reached Matthias Walkner who had crashed. Staying with his fellow racer until the medical team arrived cost Benavides around 23 minutes. After rejoining the race Kevin pushed hard for the finish, making up good time in the process. After having the lost minutes returned to him, Benavides topped the stage by a tight 27 seconds – enough to provisionally move him up into second in the overall standings.

“It’s always a difficult day when you see someone has had a crash, and it’s worse when it’s your teammate,” Benavides said. “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.”

Photo of rally rider Michael Docherty in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
South African privateer Michael Docherty once again impressed with second on stage.

Making the podium again with second today was impressive South African rookie Michael Docherty. He says his ultimate Dakar dream is “To make this my life and keep on racing”

Luciano Benavides, pushing hard right from the start of the special, was immediately in contention to take his fourth stage win. Initially fastest across the finish line, a one-minute penalty dropped the number 77 to second, which was then corrected to third place after Luciano’s brother Kevin was rewarded time lost for assisting a fallen rider.

Photo of rally rider Luciano Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen

Although slightly disappointed not to have taken another stage win, Luciano was more than happy with the way he has ridden the featureless Empty Quarter region and is now looking to finish his race on a high with another strong ride on tomorrow’s final stage 14.

“The stage was good – around 150 kilometres of dunes. I had a small crash near the beginning, possibly from pushing a little too hard,” Benavides said. “But after that, I found my rhythm and was able to push again. Midway through the stage I saw Matthias (Walkner) on the ground with the helicopter. Obviously, I hope everything is ok with him and wish him a speedy recovery. After that, I carried on to the finish and think I did a good job. It wasn’t quite enough to win the stage, but I’m happy with how I rode.”

Photo of rally rider Adrian Van Beveren in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
Although out of contention Adrien Van Beveren keeps on fighting for stage wins, 4th on the penultimate stage was a good result for the Frenchman. Photo: Rally Zone

Adrien Van Beveren was fighting for the win all stage and finished in fourth position, also keeping his fourth place in the overall standings.

“I pushed a lot at the beginning and then I jumped really high in a dune and that was like a joker. It was kind of scary,” Van Beveren mused. “I was trying to go fast but safe at the same time but that was not easy, due to the many drops in the dunes. Overall we are in the same position. I think this is my best Dakar, with a very solid performance. There is still one more day to go so let’s fight until the end. ”

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
Toby Price goes into tomorrow’s final stage with a 13-second advantage in what is one of the closest Dakar Rallies of all time. Photo: Rally Zone

Delivering an excellent ride to fifth place on stage 13, despite a small crash and a navigational error, Toby Price retained his lead in the overall standings. But with Benavides now moving into second, a mere 12 seconds behind, the race to the finish line in Dammam on Sunday’s final stage will be intense. As per the Dakar Rally rules, riders will set off in reverse order to the general standings, meaning Kevin will be second-to-last away, followed by Toby.

“It’s been a hectic day out there today,” Price said. “I caught the guys in front at about kilometer 90 and thought to myself, if I want to win this race, I have to be out front and capture that bonus a little bit. I had a small crash where I was focused on the top of one dune, lost the front, and fell over. Then around kilometer 130 we just went slightly too far right and lost a little time getting back on course. 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.”

Photo of rally rider Skyler Howes in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
Although just over a minute off the overall lead, American Skyper Howes is still in with a shot. Photo: Rally Zone

Still well in the hunt for overall victory, Skyler Howes was the sixth rider through the gate this morning and maintained a strong pace to the finish, despite a couple of errors along the way. The American has dropped down to third overall in the provisional overall standings, but he trails the leader Price by just one minute and 31 seconds and will have one final opportunity to make up time on his rivals on the rally’s 14th stage tomorrow.

“Well, I definitely gave my all today – I pushed right from the start as hard as I could,” Howes said. “When I saw that Walkner had crashed, it affected my focus a little bit. There were some really big dunes today, I had big jumps off the top of them myself, too. That was a bit of a deciding factor, I really wanted to push and try and get the win, but I want to make sure that I can complete the race as well. I missed one waypoint later on, and that meant circling around to pick it up, so I lost a little bit of time there. I’m still in the fight for the win, and I have to be super happy with how this race as 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.”

Photo of rally rider Daniel Sanders in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage thirteen
Daniel Sander enjoys another challenging special, just 281 kilometers separate Chucky from a top ten finish. Photo: Rally Zone

After posting the 11th fastest time, Daniel Sanders now lies in a comfortable seventh overall. As the second rider to enter stage 13, Sanders quickly formed a trio with two other leading riders and together they ripped through the rolling sand dunes of the Empty Quarter for one last time. In the process, Daniel increased his advantage over eighth place from just over three minutes to almost six, ahead of tomorrow’s final – a fairly simple looking special.

“It was a pretty tricky but enjoyable day up front today,” Sanders said. “The dunes were really soft which made it hard to maintain a fast pace while trying to navigate, and between the waypoints there were some big gaps, which added to the difficulty. But I pushed on the best I could to not lose too much time and I think I did a pretty good job. There were definitely a few close calls out there but that’s all part of the fun of riding through the dunes!”

Sunday’s stage 14 – the final of this year’s event – will see riders leave the bivouac in Al Hofuf and head north to Dammam. The timed special will be a relatively short sprint up the coast to the finish line, where the 2023 Dakar Rally Champion will be crowned.

Nothing but dunes!

2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 13 Provisional Classification
1 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 2:21:47
2 Michael Docherty (Husqvarna) 2:22:14
3 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 2:22:44
4 Adrian Van Beveren (Honda) 2:23:52
5 Toby Price (KTM) 2:24:15
6 Romain Dumontier (Husqvarna) 2:24:19
7 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 2:25:18
11 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 2:26:46

2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 13]
1 Toby Price (KTM) 43:11:51
2 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 43:12:03
3 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 43:13:22
4 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 43:27:42
5 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 43:27:50
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 43:30:20
7 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 43:34:25

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