Rallye

Luciano Benavides Takes Third Stage Win Of 2023 Dakar Rally While Skyler Howes Takes Back Overall

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Photo of rally rider Luciano Benavides in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Three stage wins see Luciano Benavides firmly in 6th place overall. Photo: Rally ZO=one

Luciano Benavides has claimed victory on stage 11, his third stage win of the 2023 Dakar Rally, and in turn, advances to sixth place overall in the event’s provisional overall standings.

Aussie Daniel Sanders bounded back to form taking second on stage while compatriot Toby Price made up some ground in the overall standings with third Leading those standings after an impressive ride to fourth place is Skyler Howes who now holds a narrow 28-second lead at the top of the timesheets over Price. After setting off near the front of today’s stage and having no tracks to follow overall leader going into the stage Kevin Benavides dropped from the lead after carding tenth on the stage and now holds down third in the overall.

Marking the first half of the event’s marathon stage, deep into the Empty Quarter region, day 11 at Dakar saw riders complete a timed special of 274 kilometres, predominantly made up of a seemingly endless expanse of dunes.

It was Luciano Benavides who mastered the terrain the best, posting the fastest time to kilometre 63 and pushing hard from then on. Taking the stage win by an impressive one minute and 38 seconds also moves Luciano higher in the overall standings to sixth, where he trails rally leader and teammate Skyler Howes by 18 minutes.

“It was a really, really nice stage,” Benavides said. “I enjoyed racing through the dunes and was able to make up good time, too. There was a big variety today, some of the dunes were really big and in between the ground was very hard to judge as well, with lots of softer areas that could catch you out. The navigation was not too difficult today, the challenge came from trying to find the fastest line through the dunes. I did a good job and was able to make up some more time, which is great. I’m leading out again tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Photo of rally rider Daniel Sanders in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Daniel Sanders posted his third top-three stage result at the 2023 Dakar and closed the gap on the overall leaders and now advances to seventh in the provisional standings. Photo: Rally Zone

As the 12th rider into the 274-kilometer timed special Daniel Sanders benefitted from chasing the leading riders on stage and capitalised on his starting position to post the second-fastest time. In the process, Chucky closed the gap on the overall leaders and now advances to seventh in the provisional standings. With three stages to go, a top-five finish at this year’s event is well within reach.

“Today wasn’t too bad. It took a little while for me to get up to speed and then at around kilometer 40 there was a tricky note in the roadbook,” Sanders explained. “I slowed up a little to make sure I was heading in the right direction and then pushed on to refueling. After that I rode with Luciano Benavides for the rest of the stage which was good, and it was a good gauge of knowing the speed up front. Second’s decent enough ahead of tomorrow’s shorter stage. I’ve just checked the bike over, all the fluids and everything, and it’s in great shape so I’m looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”

Photo of rally rider Toby Price in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Toby Price completed the first half of the Dakar Rally’s Empty Quarter marathon stage as the third fastest. The impressive result moves him back into second place in the overall standings, just 28 seconds down on the leader. Photo: Rally Zone

After the 153-kilometer liaison this morning, Toby Price was the 19th rider to enter today’s special. The Australian made steady progress through the stage, balancing out-and-out speed with the preservation of himself and his bike. Ultimately posting the third-fastest time for the stage, just under two minutes down on the leader, means Toby climbs back up to second overall in the provisional standings and will also have two riders to chase down on tomorrow’s slightly shorter 185-kilometer special on stage 12.

“I think the stage went well for me today, I was able to get a little bit of time back and that puts me in good contention for the podium places still,” Price said. “I’m feeling in good shape and the bike is perfect, so no issues there. Starting back a little bit definitely helped today. I did make a little mistake early on, like a couple of the guys in front I think, but was able to correct it pretty quickly and carry on. I just took it quite steady today – pushed where it was safe to do so and then eased off a bit to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. I’ll be third away for tomorrow, which isn’t too bad, so I’ll keep on fighting and see where we end up.”

Photo of rally rider Skyler Howes in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Leading the standings after an impressive ride to fourth place on today’s stage, Skyler Howes now holds a narrow 28-second lead at the top of the timesheets. Photo: Rally Zone

Handling the pressure perfectly, Skyler Howes set off as the 18th rider into the special and immediately began to make up time on those ahead of him. Swapping the top two positions with his teammate for the first half of the stage, a few minor issues, later on, cost the American a little time, but he was still able to bring his bike safely back to the bivouac in fourth place. Retaking the overall rally lead and holding a near-30-second advantage over second-placed Toby Price, Howes will have the added benefit of chasing down his nearest rival on Friday’s stage 12.

“It was a really fast stage today with lots of dunes – lots of big dunes!” Howes said. “I found a good rhythm out there and was making good progress. I did get stuck in the soft sand on a couple of dunes and had to turn around to attack those again. There was one waypoint that I had to circle around to get properly as well. The bike is in great condition, which is great for the marathon stage, I just need to stay focused because the times in the standings are really close. I think it’s going to be like this all the way to the finish, which makes it pretty exciting.”

Photo of rally rider Pablo Quintanilla in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Pablo Quintanilla consolidated with fifth place on stage eleven and now lies in fourth place in the overall standings. Photo: Rally Zone

Pablo Quintanilla made gains with a fifth place 2:54 minutes off the pace. This performance meant a step up in the overall standings to fourth position.

“It was not an easy day, the sand was too soft and sometimes it was hard to climb the dunes,” Quintanilla explained. “Anyway I was at a good pace and I think I did a good stage. The first part of the marathon stage is done and my Honda CRF 450 Rally is without any damage, so I am ready to continue tomorrow.”

Photo of rally rider Sebastian Buhler in the 2023 Dakar Rally stage eleven
Sebastian Buhler had another standout ride finishing in sixth place.

Sebastian Buhler led the Hero team with a strong 6th place, having crossed the finish line just 5 minutes behind the winner.

“It was a good stage today and I enjoyed riding through the nice desert,” Buhler said. “It was almost entirely dunes, and I found a good pace with the bike. I was able to ride quite fast, and was fighting in the top-5 throughout the stage, and I’m happy with my result. Tomorrow seems to be a similar stage as today, so I’ll try to put my best efforts to make another good result.”

The second part of the marathon stage will take place tomorrow with the return to Shaybah on stage 12. Along the 185 km of this selective section (added by a liaison of 188 km) there will be a focus on the tactical acumen of the riders. With just three days to go in this Dakar Rally 2023 it is certainly time to attack in every dune!

The empty quarter.

2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 11 Provisional Classification
1 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 2:57:59
2 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 2:59:37
3 Toby Price (KTM) 2:59:55
4 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:00:08
5 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 3:00:53
6 Sebastian Buhler (Hero) 3:03:05

2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 11]
1 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 38:47:43
2 Toby Price (KTM) 38:48:11
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 38:50:27
4 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 39:01:57
5 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 39:03:07
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 39:05:49
7 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 39:09:23

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