After a cancelled stage 12, Matthias Walkner maintains his 2018 Dakar Rally lead with an advantage of more than 30-minutes over his nearest competitor. Team-mates Toby Price and Antoine Meo are hot on his heels in third and fifth respectively.
The 12th stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally was cancelled due to safety concerns raised by the riders at the end of stage 11.
In a similar situation to the cancelled stage nine, motorcycle and quad riders made their way untimed from Fiambalá to San Juan. The stage was scheduled to have the bikes follow the cars and trucks into the timed special. This, combined with the terrain and how it would be affected by the vehicles in front, was deemed too dangerous and the organisers heeded to the riders’ wishes and cancelled the stage.
With one day less to ride, Matthias Walkner took a step closer to claiming his first ever overall Dakar victory. The Austrian, fit and ready for the stages ahead is feeling confident with only two more days to go. Sitting at the top of the leader board, 32-minutes up on his nearest rival Kevin Benavides, Walkner still needs to perform well on the remaining two stages to secure a winning result.
“My feeling going into the final couple of stages of the rally is quite good. Tomorrow will be tough and very long, there is a lot of off-piste at the beginning of the stage and then some really fast tracks towards the end. My start position is good so I’m hoping for a solid day tomorrow, I’ll do my best and see where that gets me. It was good fun yesterday riding with the cars. I tried to catch Peterhansel as soon as I could and managed to see him at about 70km into the stage. I succeeded to get in front but then he passed me again so we ended up travelling together for most of the stage. It helped me a lot because navigation on the stage was tough and I wanted to really minimise any mistakes so following a car was sensible. It was an honour to ride with ‘Mr Dakar’ himself, too.”
Toby Price won the previous day’s stage 11, the opening leg of the second marathon stage. Price put in a dominating performance to take the win by a minute-and-a-half over the runner-up and gain over 10-minutes on his team-mate and standings leader, Walkner.
“Yesterday’s stage went really well, it’s nice to get my first win at this year’s event. It helps a little for the time lost the previous day, too. We started off behind some cars and trucks, which adds a little excitement. It was a 280km special and I tried to push for the whole way – it paid off because I was fastest to every waypoint. I’m sitting third, which doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m still down quite a lot of time on Matthias. With the cancellation of today’s stage, it means even less of a chance to try and catch up. Tomorrow, stage 13 is the longest of the event though and anything can happen on this rally as we have already seen. All I can do is keep pushing and aim for a good finish on Saturday.”
Also enjoying stage 11, right up to a large crash 10km from the finish, Antoine Meo still managed to move further up the overall rankings to fifth. Like Price, Meo is running out of time if he wants to improve that position further, but there are well over 500km of special stages left to race and Meo will be trying to make the most of every one.
“Yesterday went really well for me, I pushed hard right from the beginning and was making up good time. Unfortunately, I crashed a little way from the finish. It was quite a big crash but luckily I came out of it in one piece and the bike was not too badly damaged. I am a little disappointed that today’s stage was cancelled, it makes it harder for me to make up time on the guys in front. At the same time, it was looking quite dangerous out there and I think the organisers made the right decision. I’ll go into tomorrow’s stage 13 looking to push as hard as I can and hopefully get another good result.”
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Sport Manager
“The plan today was to initially ride the stage after the cars and trucks, which is a little bit dangerous for the riders. The organisers listened to the concerns raised and made the right decision to cancel the special. The terrain of stage 12 would have proved difficult anyway, but after the larger vehicles had gone through it would have been too treacherous for the bikes. We are glad that rider safety was put above everything else. With two more stages to race, we are very happy with how things are going – obviously Matthias is in a very good position, but both Toby and Antoine can still catch the guys in front of them so we’ll see what happens over the next couple of days.”
Fully supporting team rider Rodney Faggotter on his quest to reach the big finish of the 2018 Dakar Rally, the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team have their eyes set on wrapping up their two-week-long adventure in South America on a positive note.
Rodney’s role within the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team has been of crucial importance since the start on January 6 in Lima. Providing assistance to his teammates whenever that was necessary, the experienced Aussie rally racer has managed to earn a spot inside the top 20 in the provisional overall standings. Currently placed 18th in the overall, Rodney will aim for a top-15 result when the race reaches its finish line in Córdoba on Saturday.
“Following the cancellation of the stage, we arrived at the San Juan bivouac after a pretty long ride section. Yesterday the first day of the marathon stage went pretty well for me. I cruised along to a top 20 result. I took care of the bike and myself and that paid off. I made no mistakes and had no crashes and I’m pretty happy about that. It was disappointing to see all of my teammates forced to sit out of the race in the last few days, but we keep doing our best to cross the finish line. I hope Adrien and Xavier will recover well and soon. It’s just me left now and my goal is to bring my bike home to wrap up this tough event on a high note for the team and myself.”
Alexandre Kowalski – Yamaha Rally Team Director
“The last few days have been tough for us but we are still in the game for the finish with Rodney. We are all behind him at the moment and we want to make sure we all our best to help him realise his goal of finishing the Dakar. These last two days have been really warm here in Argentina. Rodney arrived at the San Juan bivouac late this afternoon and our mechanics immediately started preparing his bike for the coming two stages. Rod did a great job since the start of this rally and we he’s played a key role for the team. We now want to see him cross the finish line with a good overall result on Saturday, so that we can all wrap up this challenging event with a positive note. I believe a top 15 in the overall is well within his reach. Today we also had the chance to talk to Adrien and Xavier on the phone. Adrien is already in the hospital in Buenos Aires. He needs to spend 24 hours there for doctors to make sure his condition is stable and then on Friday he will fly to Paris with his own doctor by his side. Adrien is surely disappointed by how things panned out this year, but he is recovering well and is looking forward to returning home. As for Xavier, he is already in Lyon and will have his arm operated in the coming days.”
Friday’s stage 13 of the 2018 Dakar Rally from San Juan to the city of Córdoba is the longest of the event. A 483km liaison combined with a 424km timed special will really test the endurance of the riders. Starting in the sand dunes surrounding San Juan, the route will take competitors through an area of fesh-fesh and conclude on the fast WRC-style tracks on the way into Córdoba. Navigation will again be important, but overall physical fitness in the Argentinian heat will be key.
Provisional Standings after cancelled Stage 12 – 2018 Dakar Rally
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