Luciano Benavides has topped a tricky day nine of the 2023 Dakar Rally ahead of Toby Price and teammate and Overall leader Skyler Howes.
Daniel Sanders experienced his worst stage finish with 20th after having trouble with navigation, the Victorian still maintains 9th position in the overall standings.
Back to the action after the rest day, the Dakar Rally entered its last week in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Stage number nine made the connection between Riyadh and Haradh, with a special stage of 359 kilometers and a liaison of 328 km. Wadis, canyons and dunes were the ingredients of a day where navigation was once again a key factor of success.
Securing his second stage win of the 2023 event, Luciano Benavides delivered a masterclass of rally racing, only dropping to second for a short distance before powering home to post the fastest time of 3:18:44. The result moves Benavides from 11th to seventh.
The Argentinian focused carefully on his road book and didn’t make the same mistakes as many of his rivals to lead the timesheets for the majority of the 358 kilometres raced against the clock. Happy with his result, his performance, and the feel of his machine, Luciano will now open Wednesday’s 624-kilometre stage 10 from Haradh to Shaybah.
“I’m really happy. I cannot believe I won again, and to be the first rider at this Dakar to win twice feels incredible,”Benavides said. “It was a really hard stage with a lot of navigation – you really had to focus on your road book to make sure you didn’t make any mistakes. There were a lot of broken tracks and different lines, so it was easy to take a slightly wrong line. Now I am opening the stage tomorrow, so it will be full gas all the way to the finish.”
Racing inside the top two on time for the entire stage today, Toby Price put in an excellent ride that saw him finish the stage as runner-up. Coming in just over one minute behind the winner Benavides, Price’s performance saw him move up to second overall in the provisional standings, just three seconds back. The two-time Dakar champion will now follow today’s winner into Wednesday’s stage 10, aiming to minimize the time lost to the chasing pack.
“Yeah, it’s been a good day for me,” Price reflected. “It looks like the boys in front got lost just before the refuel. I navigated through there really well, so that meant I was able to make up some minutes. I just tried to push on a bit today, I was trying really hard to keep up a fast pace but not make any big mistakes. All in all, I felt really good today, it’s nice to feel fresh after the rest day. It looks like tomorrow will be mostly all sand, so we’ll try our best there and see where we end up.”
Overall leader Skyler Howes also put in a great ride to secure a third-place result. Losing a couple of minutes while trying to find one particular waypoint meant that the American was soon caught by Benavides, and from there the two pushed hard toward the refueling stop and then on to the finish. Skyler Howes his lead in the overall standings and will have the opportunity to chase down the second-placed rider Toby Price on tomorrow’s stage 10.
“The stage today was pretty tricky,” Howes said. “We hit a section where we were missing one waypoint and it was in a place deep with stones and a lot of mud. It was tough to navigate through there and I knew we were going off the CAP heading a little, so I had to circle around to get back on track. Luciano caught up with me then and riding together we really put the charge on, partly because I thought I had lost a lot more time than I had. We did a good job all the way from the refueling to the finish. The ground out there was incredible – there’s been so much rain, in some places it was like riding through giant rivers. It’s been a challenging day and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come as we make our way to the end.”
Jose Ignacio Cornejo, who is doing here his seventh Dakar, finished in fifth place 6:12 adrift of Benavides and managed to climb some steps in the overall standings, where he sits now in eighth position.
“This was the first stage after the rest day. Navigation was kind of tricky, we started with some dunes then some rocky piste,” Cornejo said. “I was feeling pretty good from the beginning, made no navigation mistakes and was riding at a good pace. Then I crashed, not too fast, but got stuck under the bike and damaged the road-book. I have to thank Santolino because he was there and helped me. I lost some minutes, but not too much and managed to continue at a good pace. ”
Also producing a solid result on day nine, despite a small navigational error early on, Kevin Benavides celebrated his recent birthday in style by placing fifth on today’s stage. The 34-year-old had moved into third place by kilometer 85, but then lost several minutes trying to find one particularly tricky-to-navigate waypoint. Although Kevin lost his second-place overall position to teammate Price, he still lies in third, just over five minutes behind the leader.
“Today was a really hard stage with a lot of navigation,” Benavides lamented. “I tried my best to make a good pace and focus on my road book. I pushed really hard right from the beginning but then lost a bit of time with a really complicated note in the road book – thankfully not as much as some of the riders ahead of me. After that I pushed on towards the finish and had a good, trouble-free ride. I’m pleased with my result today, so we’ll see how things go tomorrow.”
In rally racing, anything can, and often does happen. And today was one of those days for Daniel Sanders. Faced with the arduous task of helping to lead out on stage nine after his runner-up finish on stage eight, Chucky frustratingly lost a substantial amount of time in a rocky plateau early on in the 358km special and would ultimately go on to finish in 20th place. Despite the challenging day in the saddle, importantly, Daniel is over the sickness bug which derailed his week-one charge and is now fighting fit and ready to attack, starting with tomorrow’s stage 10.
“Today was always going to be tough leading out and early on I quickly caught up with the leading riders,” Sanders said. “There was a note in the roadbook to head up into a rocky plateau but once up there it was really hard to find the way. I reckon I lost around 15 minutes or so there, but that’s how rally goes sometimes. It’s a little frustrating but all I can do is keep moving forward and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Wednesday’s stage 10 from Haradh to Shaybah will see riders cover a total distance of 624 kilometers, with a relatively short 114-kilometer timed special raced against the clock.
2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 9 Provisional Classification
1 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 3:18:44
2 Toby Price (KTM) 3:19:46
3 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 3:21:41
4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 3:24:56
5 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 3:26:37
6 Toni Mulec (Husqvarna) 3:27:30
20 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 3:38:25
2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 9]
1 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 33:55:57
2 Toby Price (KTM) 33:56:00
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 34:01:06
4 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 34:11:37
5 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 34:14:21
6 Mason Klein (KTM) 34:14:39
9 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 34:19:44