Kevin Benavides takes Dakar lead

Toby Price 3rd on stage six | Sixth outright

It snows on Dakar

With the opening third of today’s 313km special stage cancelled, riders started at waypoint four on the shores of Lake Titicaca for a 194km sprint over the mountains of Peru and into Bolivia. With the terrain now very much different to the soft sand of the Peruvian desert, riders not only had to adapt to the firmer, but at times muddy, conditions but also the altitude.

The highest part of the stage saw the route climb to over 4,000 metres above sea-level. However, things were far from idyllic. The assistance vehicles ran into rain and snow in the mountain passes which clogged up the entrance to La Paz. Nevertheless, thousands of fans were there to greet the huge Dakar entourage’s arrival.

Joan Barreda got to open the track today on fast, slippery, water-drenched tracks which caused several riders some big scares. The Spaniard came a cropper after losing the front end in a puddle. Fortunately it turned out to have no consequences other than soaking the rider. Once the instruments and goggles were cleaned, Barreda was back in the fray. Barreda finished marginally behind conceding 3’30” to the day’s winner Antoine Méo.

Joan Barreda

“Today we had to overcome a stage with a lot of rain from the very first moment, with roads completely drenched. I took a tumble in a puddle and got completely soaked. I wasted a bit of time having to clean everything as I had been unable to see, but the worst thing about it was the cold chill that I felt throughout my body. It was certainly not easy. In the end, starting from first position and only losing three minutes isn’t bad.”

Joan Barreda
Joan Barreda

Monster Energy Honda Team comrade-in-arms Kevin Benavides also ended up on the ground, but managed to limit the damage before posting second on the day, which elevates the Argentinean rider to the top of the overall leader board with a two-minute advantage over the second placed rider.

Kevin Benavides

“I am very proud because it is the first time that an Argentine rider has led the Dakar Rally. I’m very happy too, because the idea was to get as high up the rankings as possible before the rest stage, so I can not be happier. I’m a little tired, we’ve had rain, mud, fast roads. But I was fast and felt comfortable on the bike. Now we have a day to rest and prepare the second week.”

Kevin Benavides
Kevin Benavides

Setting off fourth due to his finish on the previous day’s stage five, KTM’s Antoine Meo immediately set about chasing down his team-mate Matthias Walkner and the other riders in front. Slowly building pace as the day went on, the 33-year-old Frenchman made very few mistakes and snatched victory right at the climax of the stage.

Antoine Meo

“Today was a good day. I am so happy to take my first win of this year’s event – it feels great. The stage was very long and it was so cold out there. I had a great battle with Toby for the whole stage but as we neared the finish, the last 10km got really muddy and very slippery so I knew I had a chance to make up some good time. I took the risk, pushed on really hard and managed to beat him. Tomorrow we have a rest day, which will be nice and then it’s onto the second half of the rally.”

Antoine Meo and Toby price in the dunes
Antoine Meo and Toby price in the dunes

2016 Dakar winner Toby Price challenged for the win throughout today’s short two-hour timed special. Finally finishing in third, Price’s time matched exactly that posted by runner-up Kevin Benavides. With only a split-second separating the two after nearly 200km of riding, the former world enduro champion was happy with his pace.

Toby Price

“Stage six worked out really well. We had a long morning with the extended liaison section and that was really cold to ride. The special went well, but we caught some rain from about the halfway point and it made things very slippery in places. I got third today, which I’m happy with but I need to try and get back some time on the top guys. I’ll enjoy the rest day tomorrow and then it’s full-gas next week and see what we can do.”

Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren secured a top 10 stage result but lost his outright lead to Honda’s Kevin Benavides. Wrapping up a highly successful first week of racing in South America, the WR450F Rally powered rider is now one-minute and 57 seconds behind the provisional overall leader.

Adrien Van Beveren

“It was a very long day but we managed to reach the La Paz bivouac without any problem. It was raining for the most part of the day and in the liaison section it was really, really cold. The timed special was quite fast, without any technical difficulties. The goal was not to make any navigational mistakes and reach the finish with a good overall time. I am happy I made it happen and now we are here in the La Paz bivouac. So far everything is going well and I’m happy I got to the rest day in second overall. The gap to the leader is really small and with one more full week of racing, anything can happen.”

Adrien Van Beveren
Adrien Van Beveren

Matthias Walkner, by being one of the first to start, was at a slight disadvantage as is often the case in rallying. Walkner rode a good day without mistakes, and although placing eighth at the end of the stage the Austrian was pleased with his pace and will go into the second week of racing holding third in the overall standings.

Matthias Walkner

“Today was a long day, but I enjoyed the stage, I love riding into Bolivia, the people here are wonderful. Everything is going to plan and I’m in a good position going into the second week of racing. I feel I need this rest day because the first week has been the toughest I’ve ever known at the Dakar and my whole body is aching. I think the next marathon stages will really sort out the positions at the top of the standings. Bolivia has always been tricky to ride and with the weather being so bad it will be even more difficult.”

Xavier de Soultrait enjoyed a great start to the special stage. Making a few crucial passes, the Frenchman lost some time in the deep mud halfway through the stage, eventually crossing the finish line in ninth position. Gradually gaining positions in the overall standings since the first stages of this year’s Dakar, Xavier is now fourth in the overall and within striking distance of the leading trio.

Xavier de Soultrait

“The day was shortened due to bad weather so we only raced a short timed special. Conditions were totally different today. There were parts with a lot of mud in the special stage. I attacked from the start and managed to gain some time to the leaders in the first checkpoint. Then I caught Adrien and as soon as I passed him I got a message on my GPS to slow down and ride cautiously as there had been some incident in front. As I slowed down my bike got stuck in the mud and I lost some time to get going again. Apart from this minor issue I had a good day and I’m happy I climbed to fourth in the overall.”

Xavier de Soultrait
Xavier de Soultrait

Enjoying yet another steady performance, Queensland’s Rodney Faggotter remains inside the top 20 in the provisional overall standings. Reaching the La Paz bivouac without any issue, the Aussie is now 18th in the provisional overall.

Rodney Faggotter

“It was a pretty long, wet and cold day today so it felt like a big relief to reach the La Paz bivouac without any issues. We got off to a very early start in the morning and rode all the way down to the Bolivian borders. I got through the day pretty all-right. To be honest it was hard to enjoy such a day, especially if you’re all wet and it’s hard to see. This is the Dakar and we know how to deal with such long days. I had no crashes today, my bike is in good shape so for me it all goes to plan so far.”

Rodney Faggotter
Rodney Faggotter

Australian privateer Scott Britnell finished the stage in 96th place, and is now 78th overall. 

Provisional Results Stage Six – 2018 Dakar Rally

1 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 01:54’10
2 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +0’30
3 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +0’30
4 DUPLESSIS Martín 27 ARG Honda Argentina – MEC Team Honda +01’13
5 OLIVERAS Daniel 29 SPA Himoinsa Team KTM +01’55
6 QUINTANILLA Pablo 10 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +02’00
7 NOSIGLIA Daniel 33 BOL HT Husqvarna Rally Team Husqvarna +02’13
8 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +03’27
9 BARREDA Joan 5 SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +03’30
10 METGE Michael 14 FRA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +03’37
11 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +04’06
12 FARRES Gerard 3 SPA Himoinsa Team KTM +04’14
13 SVITKO Stefan 9 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +04’19
14 MONLEON Armand 17 SPA Daming Racing Team KTM +04’34
15 BARRAGÁN Jonathan 60 SPA Gas Gas Racing Gas Gas +04’48
27. Rodney Faggotter (AUS), Yamaha, 02:03:41, +09:31

Provisional Standings after Stage Six – 2018 Dakar Rally

1 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 16:33’20
2 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +01’57
3 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +03’50
4 BARREDA Joan 5 SPA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +09’33
5 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +09’39
6 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +10’42
7 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 23 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +11’24
8 QUINTANILLA Pablo 10 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +16’42
9 FARRES Gerard 3 SPA Himoinsa Team KTM +18’08
10 SVITKO Stefan 9 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +29’11
11 BRABEC Ricky 20 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +30’34
12 CORNEJO José Ignacio 68 CHI Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +34’05

18. Rodney Faggotter (AUS), Yamaha, 17:38:05, +01:04:45

Rest Day Tomorrow

On Friday riders will enjoy a well-earned rest day in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. The break will also give competitors a chance to acclimatise to the extreme altitude of the Bolivian Altiplano – the city of La Paz itself sits at 3,640m above sea-level. Racing will resume on Saturday with the 727km stage seven, La Paz to Uyuni, the first of the two marathon stages for the bikes.