Beautiful landscapes greet riders as they rolled into Argentina
Dakar riders have travelled to Salta in Argentina to continue the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally after Stage Nine of the event was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions making Monday’s proposed timed special unfit to race.
The ninth stage of the Dakar Rally was instead completed untimed with competitors enjoying a more relaxed pace on the route from Tupiza, Bolivia to the city of Salta in north western Argentina.
Travelling in convoy, the riders made short work of the 500km journey, crossing the border and arriving in Salta around midday.
With five more stages to contest, covering approximately 3,200km, there is everything to play for in the motorcycle category.
The top-six riders are only separated by 10 minutes, a time that could easily be lost or gained in one single stage.
Yamaha Official Rally Team’s Adrien Van Beveren has his eyes set on continuing his stellar run of form. Holding on to the provisional overall lead, the WR450F Rally powered rider remains focused on his goal of trying to put his Yamaha on the top step of the podium in this 40th edition of the event.
Things could hardly have gone any better for Adrien Van Beveren so far in this year’s Dakar Rally. Finishing outside the top 10 in just one of the eight stages contested so far in South America, Adrien has been holding the provisional overall lead in half of them. Enjoying a great feeling aboard his WR450F Rally, the Frenchman is ready to continue his battle all the way to the finish line in Córdoba.
Adrien Van Beveren
“We arrived in Salta earlier today and got the chance to catch up on some sleep. Everything is going really well for me at the moment. I’m 100% focused on the coming stages of the rally. These next three days will be very crucial. Tomorrow we have a long special stage. It is important to get a good result as on Wednesday we have the first part of the next marathon stage. On Wednesday we will be also be starting after the cars and the tracks will likely be destroyed. So far we had zero issues with the bike. Our mechanics are doing an excellent job and this gives me extra confidence to continue pushing. It is good that we had some time to relax and regroup today and now I am ready to give my best for the rest of the week.”
Kevin Benavides, the first ever Argentine to win a Dakar motorcycle stage (in 2016) as well as the first to occupy overall top-spot, was greeted with a hero’s welcome as he rolled into his home country.
Benavides, second overall, along with Monster Energy Honda Team team-mates, Joan Barreda (fifth), Ricky Brabec (eighth), and José Ignacio Cornejo (fourteenth) arrived together at the bivouac located in the Palacio de Congresos in the capital of the Salta province, where they began the preparations for tomorrow’s important stage.
Matthias Walkner still leads the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders in the standings, the Austrian knows the next few days will be crucial.
“The next five days are going to get really exciting. It’s so close at the top of the standings, there are six or seven guys that could still take the win. Normally I enjoy the terrain in Argentina, but I’m not so keen on the camel grass of recent times. I much prefer the fast pistes and rivers that we get to cross. If the route is like that and I can get to Cordoba without making too many mistakes, then I’m confident of a good result.”
Toby Price lies just one-minute behind Walkner in fourth overall. Feeling a little sore after such a hard week in the saddle the former Enduro World Champion will need to call on all of his off-road experience to tame the terrain in Argentina.
“I’m looking forward to racing in Argentina again, from what we have had in previous years, I think it’s going to be quite difficult. There’s still a long way to go – a lot of kilometres left to race. I am happy with my pace, to be able to get this far so soon after coming back from injury is a real confidence boost. I’ll just keep on doing what I’ve been doing – taking each day as it comes – and hopefully I’ll be somewhere near at the finish.”
Antoine Meo now has two stage wins under his belt on this 40th edition of the Dakar Rally. Starting first on tomorrow’s stage 10 won’t be easy for the Frenchman. Nevertheless, on-form and riding well on his new KTM 450 RALLY, Meo will be pushing hard on the last five stages of the event.
“Opening the stage tomorrow is going to be a bit of a disadvantage. After a long liaison, the special starts in the dunes and with no tracks to follow it’s going to be tough leading from the front. There are still five stages to go and I’m less than 10-minutes from the lead and anything can happen in Argentina as we’ve seen before. We still have another marathon stage and the longest day of the event still to come at over 900km. I’m feeling good though and looking forward to the challenge.”
Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla is currently 12th in the rally’s provisional overall standings. Looking ahead, the Chilean rally star is now eyeing some good stage results on Argentinean soil.
“Following the issues I had yesterday, I am really happy I am still in the race to the finish. Coming into this year’s Dakar, my goal was obviously to fight for the win. We had some great stage results and I was inside the top eight and close to the group of leading riders until yesterday. Right now the podium might seem like a distant goal, but I will do my best for some good stage results. The race now enters one of its most difficult parts, but I know what I need to do to make some of the time I’ve lost.”
The world’s fastest female rally rider Laia Sanz was lucky to complete stage eight, an impact with some of the local wildlife thankfully didn’t result in a crash for the Spaniard, just some minor damage to her bike. Laia is looking forward to the final stages in Argentina, but hopes for some cooler conditions than forecast. Sanz is currently 14th outright.
“I think Argentina is going to be tough, we have another couple of marathon stages on Thursday and Friday and anything can happen on those days. I’m a little afraid of the heat in Argentina, if it gets really hot, it’s not only tiring but it makes it hard to concentrate too and you can make mistakes with your navigation. We have five stages left to go, so I’m hoping they all go well and I can make the finish.”
For Queensland Yamaha dealer Rodney Faggotter, the change back to the warmer temperatures and lower altitudes of Argentina will to be closer to what the Aussie racer is used to. Looking to continue his consistent run, Rod is now eyeing a top 20 result at the Dakar.
“Following the cancellation of the special today, we rode in groups on the road. It was about 400km and we reached Salta early in the afternoon. The weather here in Argentina is a bit better and definitely more to my liking. It’s warmer and a bit dryer and that’s good for the coming days. We also got down to lower attitude and this is also a positive thing for the next days of the rally. We had a meeting with our team and made our plans for the rest of the rally. It is unfortunate that we lost Franco and Xavier, but Adrien is doing great so far. As for me, I want to continue my momentum and get back inside the top 20 in the overall. I’m looking forward to the rest of the event.”
Australian privateer Scott Britnell is currently 74th outright.
Provisional Standings after cancelled Stage Nine – 2018 Dakar Rally
1. Adrien van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 27:22:03
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 27:22:25 +0:22
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), 27:28:37 +6:34
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 27:29:38 +7:35
5. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 27:30:04 +8:01
6. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 27:31:59 +9:56
7. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 27:53:58 +31:55
Stage Ten Preview
Riders will be glad of Monday’s rest as Tuesday’s stage 10 is another long one. A total of 797km will be covered on the bikes, 373km of which are timed special in the dunes and river crossings of the Catamarca Province.
Riders will leave Salta and head for Belén, a beautiful city in the centre of the region. Navigation will be especially important as well as the strength to keep up a good pace in the technical latter half of the stage.