Dakar Rally Stage 11 Report: Price On Point, Walkner Still Leads

Jean Turner | January 17, 2018

Dakar Rally Stage 11 Report: Riders set out for the start of the second marathon stage today in Dakar Rally stage 11. Heading from Belen to Fiambala, including a 174-mile special, and a 125-mile liaison. Toby Price went on the attack, seeking to make amends from yesterday’s devastating turn of events. The Red Bull KTM rider set a scorching pace from the start and held it all the way to the finish to take the Dakar Rally stage 11 win. Only 1:38 behind was Kevin Benavides of the Monster Energy Honda team. Antoine Meo rounded out the top-three at 6:31 off the lead pace while his Red Bull KTM teammate Matthias Walkner cruised to a fifth-place finish, comfortably retaining his commanding lead of 32 minutes.

Attrition continues as fatigue and injuries trim the field. On Wednesday’s stage 11, two more top-10 riders have dropped out: Joan Barreda and Stefan Svitko.

Joan Barreda of the Monster Energy Honda team started out the day in second overall, but has officially pulled out of the rally. The Spaniard was weary and exhausted from nursing an injured knee the past four days, and after getting lost on Dakar Rally stage 11 and straying about 20 minutes off course, Barreda threw in the towel.

Stefan Svitko of the Slovnaft Rally Team, has also withdrawn from the rally. The Slovakian privateer, who pulled off a remarkable runner-up finish in the 2016 Dakar Rally, suffered a high-speed crash on stage 10 that sent him over the bars. While he managed to finish the stage, he found himself unable to continue on Wednesday for Dakar Rally stage 11 due to an injured shoulder.

Speaking of injuries, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team gave an updated on Adrien Van Beveren’s condition after yesterday’s spectacular high-speed wreck. “It was confirmed that Adrien has suffered a broken collarbone, two fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion (bruise to his lungs) caused by the impact of the crash. Adrien is expected to fly back to France on Wednesday night or Thursday morning.”

Dakar Rally Stage 11 Report

Dakar Rally stage 11 Toby Price
Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price stormed to a big win today in Dakar Rally Stage 11, the first leg of the second marathon stage. Price is third overall, but 40 minutes behind the leader. Photography by PhotosDakar.com KTM Media

The advantage now falls to those who remained uninjured, and haven’t yet pushed through the wall. Toby Price is one such rider, and while a podium might be all that’s within reach at this point, the Aussie is still vowing to dig deep and fight his way to the finish.

“Yesterday was… I’ve never felt so bad in my life,” Price lamented. “Today we just needed to try and see if we could claw back a little bit of time, and I think we’ve done that a little bit, but it’s gonna be tough from back where we are. In the first week I was quite conservative, but now I attacked some more. It’s good to get a stage win because I hadn’t done that this year so far. To be still in the race going toward the finish line is a pretty big achievement for me. My goad is just trying to stay on two wheels, not making a day like yesterday and seeing what that gives us at the finish line.”

His win, plus the departure of Barreda, elevates him to third in the overall standings, still nearly 40 minutes out of the lead. But as his teammate Matthias Walkner attests, “every day can change everything.”

Walkner spent much of his day riding alongside Stephane Peterhansel, current second-place driver in the car category, after a mixed start in the morning. All eyes are on him in the moto category, as his first-ever Dakar Rally win is his to lose.

“Things went pretty well for me today,” Walkner said. “I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to go wrong anywhere and lose all of the time that I gained yesterday. The stage was good, but my pace could have been a little better. I spent most of the time with Stephane Peterhansel today. I passed him on the dunes, but on the fast bits he passed me.

“I have to stay focused day after day. I don’t think so much about victory. Of course, I’m a little bit nervous. Just missing one waypoint can cost you 20 minutes. Keep going and doing my best is all I can do.”

Dakar Rally stage 11 Ricky Brabec
After yesterday’s debacle Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec redeemed himself with a solid fourth-place finish. Photography by Monster Energy Honda

American rider Ricky Brabec is another who had a strong day. He and his Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides sprinted to top-five finishes today, with Brabec taking fourth in the stage (+7:34).

“I am much happier than when I finished yesterday, which had been a nightmare trying to find that (cursed) waypoint,” said Brabec. “I feel fine; the bike is running really well too. We will continue fighting to finish this Dakar as best we can. I hope Joan [Barreda] gets well and improves soon.”

American Andrew Short had another satisfying day, carding a 13th place finish, showing steady improvement along with his notable consistency. He advanced another two spots today to 17th overall.

Dakar Rally stage 11 Andrew Short
Head down and still charging, Andrew Short is steadily improving as he pushes way to the finish in his first-ever Dakar Rally. Photography by PhotosDakar.com Husqvarna Motorcycles

“One more exhausting rally stage is in the books and we’re getting closer to the finish,” Short said. “Tonight we’ll have to prepare our bikes by ourselves to get them ready for stage 12 tomorrow. Everything is going well for me so far; I keep learning and improving.

“This event is a huge experience for me and my mind now is focused on crossing the finish line on Saturday. We’ve all worked really hard this last couple of weeks, and it will be like seeing all the hard work pay off when we reach Cordoba. There are three more stages to go and I’ll do my best to stay focused on my goals.”

Short’s teammate Pablo Quintanilla, who had just put himself into the top-10 overall after stage 10, lost time in the dunes with a mechanical issue with the fuel pump on his Husqvarna FC 450 Rally. While he fell another 20 minutes behind the leaders, he actually advanced to eighth in the overall on account of Barreda’s and Svitko’s departures.

The two openings in the top-10 overall have now gone to Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo of the Monster Energy Honda team and Oriol Mena of the Hero Motorsports Rally Team.

Mark Samuels is another rider who is showing steady improvement as the race wears on. Samuels finished 14th in today’s stage 11 and moves up to 22nd overall. Shane Esposito finished 23rd on the day, and is 26th overall. (Had it not been for the time penalties Samuels and Esposito received earlier in the rally, they would both be inside the top 20 overall.)

Overall Results Dakar Rally stage 11:

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 36:33:37
  2. Kevin Benavides (Hon) +32:00
  3. Toby Price (KTM) +39:17
  4. Gerard Farres (Yam) +49:17
  5. Antoine Meo (KTM) +59:05
  6. Ricky Brabec (KTM) +1:18:10
  7. Johnny Aubert (Gas) +1:49:34
  8. Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +1:53:19
  9. Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo (Hon) +1:53:19
  10. Oriol Mena (Her) +2:13:07

 

  1. Laia Sanz (KTM) +2:34:30

 

  1. Andrew Short (Hus) +3:06:31

 

  1. Mark Samuels (Hon) +5:45:28

 

  1. Shane Esposito (KTM) +7:04:41

 

  1. Bill Conger (KTM) +23:57:58

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.