2018 Dakar Rally Results: Walkner Wins It

Jean Turner | January 20, 2018

2018 Dakar Rally Results – It’s all over, and as expected, Matthias Walkner of the Red Bull KTM team is the new champion of the Dakar Rally. In his fourth attempt at rally, the Austrian has emerged victorious, and his team is thrilled to have an Austrian on an Austrian bike atop the podium.

2018 Dakar Rally Results Matthias Walkner
Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner crossed the finish with nearly 17 minutes over the field for his first-ever Dakar Rally victory. Photography by PhotosDakar.com KTM Media

For Walkner, the win didn’t come without some humility. He admitted to relying on a bit of luck in taking the overall win. “There were five other people who could have won it but it looks like I was the lucky one,” Walkner said. “I was surely a little bit lucky. I think that in the Dakar you need a bit of luck. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t have it. This time it was on my side.”

We can all agree that luck favors the prepared, and Walkner and the Red Bull KTM team came to the 2018 Dakar Rally prepared to take the win. For the Austrian marque, it’s the 17th straight win in the motorcycle category, and it comes in what is called the toughest Dakar in recent memory

“Thank you to my team and everyone that has supported me,” said Walkner. “We did it! It’s unbelievable! I can’t describe how it feels. This year’s Dakar has been so difficult, easily the toughest rally of my career. Navigation has been tricky pretty much every day. The goal was to stay on the podium, but it was so close this year and day 10 was a key day. It was really a crazy Dakar. The riding level was so high. I was never thinking that I really could win. It’s really, really amazing.”

2018 Dakar Rally Results

Second place goes to Kevin Benavides of the Monster Energy Honda team. The Argentine rider is a hero to his home crowd for winning the final stage and landing on the overall podium in only his second attempt at the rally. “I feel amazing,” Benavides said. “This sensation for me is incredible. To win is my dream so I touched it a little bit. We need to continue pushing and pushing for next year. Now I know I can do it, so I’ll continue preparing and try to do it.”

2018 Dakar Rally Results Kevin Benavides
Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides took the stage win and second overall. Photography by Monster Energy Honda

Toby Price, the 2016 Dakar Rally champion, rounded out the overall podium in third. He did everything he did to close the gap to Benavides and put his Red Bull KTM on the second step for a 1-2 finish for his team, but had to settle for third.

“I’m happy to get to the finish line; that was always the main goal right from the start,” said Price. “Every time I’ve made it to the end I’ve been on the podium, so I’m really happy with this.

“After the year I’ve had, it’s a dream come true, for sure,” Price explained. “I didn’t even expect this finish. A lot of people didn’t even expect me to be at the start line. Twelve weeks ago it was looking pretty grim. Six weeks ago I started training and riding. It’s a steep curve again. To have 12 months off and not do any road books, navigation or any races at all and then come straight back into the biggest race of the year—and the toughest one in years, as well… This is the fourth one and the toughest one I’ve done of the lot. They’re definitely not making it any easier on us.

“I’ve got the beach body now to head back home to Australia and lie on the beach for two weeks solid. But then we’ll get back to training, hook in and come back.”

2018 Dakar Rally Results Nacho Cornejo
Factory Honda’s young gun “Nacho” Cornejo made it two Honda’s inside the top-10, and could very well be Honda’s next rising star in rally. Photography by Monster Energy Honda

Walkner’s and Prices’ KTM teammate Antoine Meo crossed the line fourth followed by KTM privateer and Dakar veteran Gerard Farres. Johnny Aubert finished sixth aboard his GasGas followed by Oriol Mena put his Hero Motorsports 450 RR in seventh overall.

Pablo Quintanilla was the top-finishing Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, and although the two-time FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion was hoping for a much stronger finish, the team was happy to get both riders across the finish line, with Andrew Short finishing out the rally in 17th overall.

Daniel Oliveras of the Himoinsa KTM team finished ninth overall with Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo rounding out the top-10 overall. For young Nacho Cornejo, it was a truly remarkable performance. He was called up last minute by the Honda team after Paolo Goncalves was unable to compete due to injury. The 23-year-old Chilean rider had a number of top-10 stage finishes and steadily advanced in the overall rankings as the lead pack thinned out, making it two factory Hondas in the top-10.

2018 Dakar Rally Results

2018 Dakar Rally Results Andrew Short
The look on Andrew Short’s face says it all. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider finished 17th in his first-ever Dakar Rally. Photography by PhotosDakar.com Husqvarna Motorcycles Media

American Andrew Short was relieved to take the checkers in his first-ever attempt in Dakar. It’s been quite a fight to the finish for the former AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross star, but he seems intent on learning and improving in rally racing.

“I’m so happy to make it to the finish,” said Short. “That has been a very tough 14 days of racing. I knew I would have some crashes, but to have four at high-speed is something I didn’t expect. The speed is something that has surprised me a little. I’m okay in the dunes and the off-piste stuff, but on some of the tracks you are riding at full throttle for what seems like hours. I thought my overall pace would be a little better, but I have come away from the event having learned a lot and I know what I need to work on to improve. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season now and then hopefully I’ll be more prepared for the 2019 Dakar.”

American riders Mark Samuels and Shane Esposito have also both recorded finishes, Samuels taking 21st overall and Esposito 25th. Bill Conger crossed the finish today to claim 66th overall.

2018 Dakar Rally Overall Results:

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 43:06:01
  2. Kevin Benavides (Hon) +16:53
  3. Toby Price (KTM) +23:01
  4. Antoine Meo (KTM) +47:28
  5. Gerard Farres (KTM) +1:01:04
  6. Johnny Aubert (Gas) +1:53:53
  7. Oriol Mena (Her) +2:22:52
  8. Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +2:24:05
  9. Daniel Oliveras (KTM) +2:37:20
  10. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Hon) +2:42:36
  11. Juan Pedrero Garcia (Shr) +2:45:48
  12. 12. Laia Sanz (KTM) +2:56:02
  13. Daniel Nosiglia (Hus) +2:58:29
  14. Armand Monleon (KTM) +3:06:41
  15. Jonathan Barragan (Gas) +3:13:02
  16. Rodney Faggotter (Yam) +3:58:16
  17. Andrew Short (Hus) +4:13:42
  18. Diego Martin (Hon) +4:32:39
  19. Marc Sola (KTM) +5:37:59
  20. Jacopo Cerutti (Hus) +5:38:44
  21. Mark Samuels (Hon) +06:11:06

 

  1. Shane Esposito (KTM) +7:37:44

 

  1. Bill Conger (KTM) +26:40:12

 

 

Jean Turner | Contributor A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.