Stage eight has proved to be one of the toughest of the 2018 event. As the second leg of the rally’s first marathon stage, riders were unable to receive any team assistance on Saturday night, and rode Sunday’s 498km timed special with day-old tyres.
Wet and slippery conditions called for supreme technical skills on the bike, good navigation and yet more mental strength in order to complete another challenging stage.
Setting off ninth at 0639 on Sunday morning, Antoine Meo was immediately able to chase down the pack in front of him. Meo led on time through the first six waypoints with a small mistake then causing him to drop down to second. Pushing hard for the final 100km, the Frenchman took the win at the finish by over one-minute from stage runner-up, Honda’s Ricky Brabec.
“I am really happy with my performance today. Right from the beginning my plan was to push and try to regain some time on the leaders. I felt really good today, despite the conditions and the length of the special, I didn’t make any mistakes. With tomorrow’s stage cancelled it puts me in the unfortunate position of having to open Tuesday’s stage in the dunes of Argentina. It is always a slight disadvantage to open stages like that, but I’ll do my best and see where I can finish.”
Van Beveren was assigned with the demanding task of opening the tracks on several occasions during the timed special, but the Frenchman still brought his Yamaha home in seventh position on Sunday.
Reaching the end of the two-day marathon stage in Tupiza, Van Beveren had managed to retain his lead in the rally’s provisional overall standings, but it was trimmed by almost three-minutes, as Honda’s Kevin Benavides made inroads towards the outright leader on combined times.
Adrien Van Beveren
“It is great that we keep the lead at the end of this extremely difficult marathon stage. The rain, the mud and the high altitude made things really hard for us these last two days. It was really exhausting physically but I managed to get two good stage results. Yesterday I was second and then today I pushed hard and managed to stay close to the leading group. For big parts of the special stages yesterday and today I found myself opening the tracks. I am feeling great so far on my bike and I also have a great feeling with my navigation. I can be fast while also avoiding navigational mistakes and that is crucial for the coming stages as well. I feel that I’ve put the pieces of the puzzle together and now I know what I need to do during the coming stages.”
American Ricky Brabec finished second of the day. The Californian appeared at ease in terrain very similar to what he’s used to in the American Bajas, keeping a ferocious pace on his Honda throughout the day. Brabec’s endeavours allow him to climb to eighth overall.
“We have finished this second part of the marathon, in which we weren’t allowed to receive any assistance. The type of stage today was very similar to the races we have in California and I felt very comfortable, much more than yesterday, which was horrible for me, because I’m not a rider who likes mud. Today there were fast tracks and off-piste. The end of the special was good, battling with Antoine Méo. We will continue fighting over the next five days. Every year of the three in which I’ve taken part in the Dakar, stages have been cancelled, which is nothing new. If it’s for our safety, that’s good.”
Kevin Benavides was also the centre of attention, given that after Sunday’s performance, the Argentine is a hair’s breath away from taking the overall leadership, with just 22-seconds separating him from the leader Adrien Van Beveren. Benavides caught up with the Frenchman during the special and whittled three minutes off his advantage. The Argentine will certainly need no pepping up tomorrow as the rally reaches the rider’s hometown of Saltas with hundreds of fans lining the route to cheer on the local hero.
“It’s been a good day. I started third and within a few kilometres I found myself opening the track with Adrien [Van Beveren], so we practically rode together all day. We were joined by Toby Price and Joan Barreda, who had gotten lost and found us. We finished in a pack. I was holding back a bit, knowing that I could not make much of a difference. I’m happy about that. Tomorrow we ride to Salta, my hometown; I really want to see my people, my family and recharge my batteries.”
Toby Price again showed why he is a former Dakar champion. The Australian used his experience and skill to maintain a consistent pace, despite the treacherous conditions, and placed a very creditable third at the line, more importantly this performance moved Toby almost three-minutes closer to teammate Walkner.
“It has been a really long couple of marathon stages for us, yesterdays stage was around 430+ kilometres and today we had a 490+ kilometre stage, so almost 1000 kilometres of special stage. Stage 8 from Uyuni > Tupiza went really well today we finished third, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing bike went really well today especially with how gnarly today was. I’m feeling a little second hand after these two big days now behind us but I have no doubts we’re all feeling the same way. We actually have a rest day tomorrow which is kind of good and kind of bad at the same time, because everyone will have that extra edge moving into Stage Nine. I’m really looking forward to moving into Argentina and those stages, I think they’re going to be pretty difficult from the previous years we’ve had there. All in all everything is going really good and we’re in a good position, we’ve got a lot of kilometres ahead of us and I’m really looking forward to ticking them off!”
Starting sixth on Sunday morning, Matthias Walkner maintained his position for most of the stage. The solid ride was enough for Walkner to move back up to third in the provisional overall standings, just one-minute ahead of his team-mate, Toby Price.
“That was a really tough couple of stages. Yesterday we had a 300km liaison and the temperature was only two or three degrees. All the water on the timed special made it very dangerous to push as hard as I would have liked. Today the stage was not too bad, I lost a little time in one section, but managed to get that back at the end. The worst thing was for the entire 500km or so, I was riding on my own and that makes it difficult to push yourself to a good result. Nevertheless, I didn’t make any mistakes and my finish was good so I am happy. Looking forward to Argentina, hopefully the stages will be fast WRC-style pistes – I do a lot better on that type of terrain and I think I can really start to push then.”
Joan Barreda certainly deserves an honorary mention for his never-say-die attitude. Yesterday, in the marathon stage he took a bad fall, injuring his left knee yet still managing to finish the stage. When the race doctors failed to find anything broken, the Spaniard was given the all-clear to continue in the competition. Today Joan was forced to lead the field and battled hard against the pain to finish in eighth place, limiting the damage, and dropping 3’16’’ to the leader. Barreda now holds fifth overall position – a minute and a half away from a podium place in the Dakar.
“Yesterday I had a fall while pushing hard, where I had managed to make up quite a few minutes. I damaged my knee and it was looking unlikely that I would make the start line for today’s stage. I thought that I might not be able to participate today. The doctors bandaged me up and today I had the job of opening the track from the start of the special. Over the first kilometres there was a part of dunes with vegetation and I suffered a little – it hurt me a lot. Then the other riders arrived and we were able to finish the day without further problems. Now we need to see how the knee holds up, but without a doubt, the cancellation of the stage tomorrow will be a great help. Let’s move on. We still have options with the desert stages and we will try to get the best out of our possibilities in this race.”
Queensland Yamaha dealer Rodney Faggotter was 27th on Sunday’s stage, and lies 22nd outright. A strong asset for the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team, the Aussie remains well in contention for the top 20 in the provisional overall. Making use of his mechanical skills to assist his teammates in the marathon bivouac in Uyuni, Faggotter was back on his WR450F Rally machine on Sunday enjoying another steady stage performance.
“This marathon stage was a test for all of us. I’m tired but happy I brought my bike home. Yesterday I lost time trying to help Franco get his bike out of the mud. Both these last two days have been really long and tiring. I’m glad to be here in Tupiza and my bike is running great so far. I’ve had a couple of small crashes but nothing major. My body is tired tonight but we have time to relax and recover some energy. Things are going pretty well for me this year. Unfortunately, we lost Franco yesterday and Xavier today. My thoughts are with Xavier now, as he tries to recover from his injuries.”
Scott Britnell was 66th across the line on Sunday, and holds down 74th overall.
Provisional Results Stage Eight
1 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 05:24’01
2 BRABEC Ricky 20 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +01’08
3 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +02’45
4 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +05’52
5 SVITKO Stefan 9 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +06’46
6 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +07’00
7 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +08’44
8 BARREDA Joan 5 SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +12’00
9 SANZ Laia 15 SPA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +14’15
10 MONLEON Armand 17 SPA Daming Racing Team KTM +15’15
11 AUBERT Johnny 40 FRA Gas Gas Racing Gas Gas +16’15
12 MENA Oriol 61 SPA Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +16’57
13 BENAVIDES Luciano 77 ARG KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +18’44
14 DUPLESSIS Martín 27 ARG Honda Argentina – MEC Team Honda +19’11
15 ESPOSITO Shane USA KTM KTM +20’21
22 CORNEJO José Ignacio 68 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +25’4600
Provisional Standings after Stage Eight
1 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha 27:22’03
2 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’22
3 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +06’34
4 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +07’35
5 BARREDA Joan 5 SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +08’01
6 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +09’56
7 SVITKO Stefan 9 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +31’55
8 BRABEC Ricky 20 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +31’58
9 FARRES Gerard 3 SPA Himoinsa Team KTM +45’52
10 AUBERT Johnny 40 FRA Gas Gas Racing Gas Gas +01:10’02
Stage Nine Cancelled
Stage nine of the 2018 Dakar Rally was due to take competitors from Tupiza, Bolivia across the border into Salta in north western Argentina. The planned route included a lot of river crossings but due to the heavy rainfall of recent days leading to localised flooding, the stage has been cancelled. Riders are scheduled to recommence racing on Tuesday with stage 10.
Stage 9 | Jan 15 | Tupiza to Salta | SS: 242km | Total: 754km
Stage 10 | Jan 16 | Salta to Belén| SS: 372km | Total: 795km
Stage 11 | Jan 17 | Belén to Fiambalá | SS: 280km | Total: 484km
Stage 12 | Jan 18 | Fiambalá to San Juan | SS: 375km | Total: 722km
Stage 13 | Jan 19 | San Juan to Córdoba | SS: 423km | Total: 904km
Stage 14 | Jan 20 | Córdoba to Córdoba | SS: 119km | Total: 284km
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