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Luciano Benavides Takes 2023 Dakar Rally Stage Six Win

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Photo of rally rider Luciano Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
After showing great pace so far at this year’s event, Luciano Benavides’ determination has paid off with a stage win at the 2023 Dakar.

On an extremely successful day in the Saudi desert for Husqvarna Factory Racing, Luciano Benavides posted the fastest time on Friday’s 358-kilometre timed special to earn his first ever Dakar Rally stage win ahead of Skyler Howes and Toby Price.

Finishing as runner-up to his teammate, Skyler Howes increased his lead in the provisional overall standings to three and a half minutes after his strong ride through today’s dunes. Toby Price rounded out the top three to solidify his overall second position on the overall rankings.

In late breaking news tomorrow’s seventh stage has been canceled with organisers saying, Faced with the weather problems experienced again today and the level of tiredness observed among all the riders in the category, the Dakar organizers have decided to cancel the special for stage seven between Riyadh and Al Duwadimi.

The bikes and quads will therefore be invited to leave the bivouac in Riyadh from 10 AM tomorrow morning and take the road section to Al Duwadimi. On Sunday 8th January, they will then contest stage 8 as rescheduled, i.e., with the special of stage 7 from the initial route, reduced to a length of 345 kilometres.

After showing great pace so far at this year’s event, Luciano Benavides’ determination has paid off with a stage win at Dakar. Setting off as the 12th rider into the special gave the Argentinian the perfect opportunity to make up time on his rivals ahead, and that’s exactly what he did.

Fourth-quickest to kilometre 31, Benavides continued to pick off the riders ahead of him on time, steadily moving up the rankings to finally overhaul teammate Howes by the finish line. The result moves Luciano one place higher in the overall standings to ninth and closes the gap to his rivals ahead.

“I feel amazing, to take my first stage win at the Dakar means a lot to me,” Benavides said. “It’s a really special day. I knew it would be really tight today, so I pushed a lot, right from the start. Everything went well, I gave my all, and I was able to post the fastest time. It means I’m opening tomorrow’s stage but I’m looking forward to it.”

Photo of rally rider Skyler Howes in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
Skyler Howes had another good day finishing second and holding onto his lead in the overall standings. Photo: Rally Zone.

Enjoying the stage and putting in another strong performance, Skyler Howes demonstrated why he currently sits top of the general rankings. The American skilfully navigated his way through the tracks and dunes of the stage to finish just under one minute short of the hard-charging Benavides. Increasing his lead at the top of the standings, Howes knows he can’t rest on his advantage and is ready to push once again tomorrow on the 713-kilometre first half of the event’s marathon stage.

“I really enjoyed today. The stage was actually really good fun as the dunes had plenty of traction and you could jump off the top of each one,” Howes said. “I knew with the stage being a little shorter that times would be tight, but I just approached it like every day – do my best, try to minimise any mistakes, and try to stick to a good, solid pace. The fact that I’m leading the race wasn’t really on my mind, there is still along way to go yet. It’s been a long day, with a lot of seat time due to the liaisons, but I feel good, the bike is performing great and I’m ready for the first half of the marathon stage tomorrow.”

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
Australian Toby Price remains strong and the most consistent rider of 2023 with third on stage six keeping him solidly in second overall. Photo: Rally Zone

Following his third-place finish on stage five, Toby Price set about chasing down the two riders ahead of him right from the start of today’s special. With the times among the front runners proving to be especially close this morning as they navigated their way through the damp dunes of the stage, Price found himself losing a few positions as he focused on his navigation near the front. After the refueling however, the Australian pushed on and moved back up the leaderboard to ultimately complete the stage in third place.

“That’s another day ticked off – it has certainly been a long one! I had that crash yesterday, so I’ve been a little bit sore on my back and took it a touch easier today,” Price explained. “But all in all, everything is going well so far. We’ve got the marathon stage tomorrow, so that is always a big test to look after yourself and the bike. Hopefully it’s not as cold as it has been over the last few days, but we’ll do our best, get through it as always, and keep having fun.”

Photo of rally rider Joan Barreda in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
After yesterday’s huge crash, Joan Barreda rebounded strongly with 4th on the stage. Photo: Rally Zone

Despite his nasty fall yesterday, Joan Barreda finished in fourth place, which is identical to his position in the general rankings. Lagging ten minutes behind Skyker Howes, the Honda rider is still in the reckoning for overall triumph.

“Today I tried to keep my rhythm. At the beginning it was a little bit difficult,” Barreda said. “After, we pushed more in the dunes. I felt better there. But today everyone was tired and we saw really small gaps between the riders. After the first refuelling I stayed a little calmer and I managed a medium position, so it’s not bad for tomorrow. It’s amazing, all these guys are so crazy, so fast. Everybody is navigating perfectly, everybody is faster and faster and each year is more and more fast. It’s like this, it’s a natural part of life. I’m just so happy to be here at my age and all my history over the years on the Dakar”.

Photo of rally rider Kevin Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
Kevin Benavides completed the demanding special in fifth place. Photo: Rally Zone

The day started differently for Kevin Benavides. Third-quickest through the first 100 kilometers, the 2021 Dakar champion dropped a little time following a small mistake midway through the special. Regrouping, Kevin clawed some of that time back to complete the demanding special in fifth place. Benavides’ consistency is paying off. Finishing no lower than eighth so far at the 2023 event has resulted in the Argentine lying in a solid third overall in the provisional standings.

“Another long day and another day of trying my best out there,” Benavides said. “The level is so high right now so you can barely afford to lose time or ease off on any of the stages. The times are so close, but we’re still early in the race and there is a really long way to go. I’ll try and keep up this pace and stay consistent and hopefully nearer the end, I’ll still be well in the fight for the top places.”

With his energy levels slowly restoring following a sickness bug that zapped all of his power ahead of yesterday’s stage five, Daniel Sanders made it known today that he’s not out of the running in the race for victory. Clocking in as the seventh-fastest, just three minutes behind the stage winner, it was a perfect execution of damage limitation and he remains eighth in the provisional standings.

“A super-tough day again but fortunately a lot better than yesterday,” Sanders said. “It’s important to stay in the race but man, it was difficult. I felt pretty good up until around 50 kilometers in but then it was a bit of a struggle. Fortunately, the stage was a little shorter today and the team did a great job in getting my bike set up so yeah, not great, but certainly not too bad. We have a couple more stages until the rest day so if we can get to there, get some decent rest and regroup for next week, then we should be good.”

Photo of rally rider Daniel Sanders in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage six
Daniel Sanders remains in the fight with a solid 7th on stage six and 8th overall after regaining his health overnight. Photo: Rally Zone

2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 6 Provisional Classification
1 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:14:19
2 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:15:15
3 Toby Price (KTM) 3:16:39
4 Joan Barreda (Honda) 3:16:48
5 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:17:00
6 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:17:11
7 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:17:19

2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 6]
1 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 26:31:52
2 Toby Price (KTM) 26:35:23
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 26:38:53
4 Joan Barreda (Honda) 26:42:49
5 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 26:44:12
6 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 26:44:14
8 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 26:51:46

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