Dakar Rally Stage 13 Report: Price Wins Stage, Walkner Still Leads

Jean Turner | January 19, 2018

Dakar Rally Stage 13 Report – There is one day and 74 miles (120 km) yet remaining in the 2018 Dakar Rally, and barring disaster, Matthias Walkner of the Red Bull KTM team will be the new champion. The Austrian has a 22-minute lead over Honda’s Kevin Benavides after Dakar Rally Stage 13 on Friday, where he finished a conservative fourth on the day, 11:32 behind his teammate Toby Price who won the stage.

Dakar Rally stage 13 Matthias Walkner
With a 22-minute lead and only one stage remaining, Matthias Walkner is a shoe-in for the overall victory tomorrow. Photography by Red Bull Content Pool

“I just tried to do nothing crazy,” said Walkner of today’s special. “I know it was a really, really long day and the guys in the back were pushing like hell. I had a good heading and I didn’t want to be too nervous. I just tried to be focus on the stage and do my best. There is quite a big gap, but it can change so quickly. We’ve seen this today and before, if you have a technical problem and you get a bit lost, it can change really, really quickly.”

A technical problem is exactly what took Ricky Brabec out of the race today, dealing another devastating blow to the Monster Energy Honda team. The American was running a strong sixth place in the overall, but was forced to retire from the race after his CRF450 Rally caught fire at the 52 km mark of the special.

“It was very unfortunate on the penultimate day for me to have an electric issue,” said Brabec. “They forced me to quit, as they only gave me an hour to get moving again. We’ll just have to keep working hard toward next year.

“I’m sorry to all friends and fans whom I haven’t been able to keep up to date recently. Thank you all very much for the support.”

Dakar Rally Stage 13

If there was a day to close the gap to the leader, it was today, with one of the longest specials in the rally at 263 miles (423 km). Toby Price gave it his best shot and hung it out during today’s long stage. While he may still be nearly 28 minutes out of the lead, he still has the goal to move into the runner-up spot, which is only five minutes out of his reach at this point.

Dakar Rally stage 13 Toby Price
The fight is on for second overall, and Toby Price isn’t letting up. Photography by Red Bull Content Pool

“That was a great stage,” Price said. “The day went really well. It’s good to get the stage out of the way. It was a good fast track with really rough sections so I pushed pretty hard there and made a little bit of time. I was trying to win both the stage and [move into] second place [overall]. We’re trying to claw back as much as we can and show everybody that we’ve got good speed.

“It would be nice to beat Kevin [Benavides],” Price continued. “That’ the aim and the goal but Kevin’s riding really well, really strongly and really fast at the moment. It would be nice to try and get onto the second step. At the moment, third is not looking too bad, but it’s not over yet.”

The battle is on for the runner-up position. Kevin Benavides is determined to keep his Honda firmly in second place, and though he yielded a little time to the Aussie today, he didn’t give up much. Benavides finished second in the stage only two minutes behind Price.

Dakar Rally stage 13 Kevin Benavides
Monster Energy Honda’s lead rider Kevin Benavides has a five-minute gap over Price for the runner-up position, and he plans to fight to the end to keep it. Photography by Monster Energy Honda

“I managed to regain a bit of time on the second part because Toby had distanced me on the first section,” Benavides said. “Unfortunately I had a little fall about 60 km from the finish, but it didn’t set me back much. We are very close in the general standings, so I’ll have to keep my eye on him.

“Tomorrow I will go out and try to ride an intelligent race. We are going to try to take it carefully because there are several dangers and you can’t mess around.”

Dakar Rally Stage 13

Among those dangers are no less than 30 water-crossings in tomorrow’s stage. At 74 miles (120 km), it is a relatively brief stage, but still much left to play for.

“At the moment it does not look so bad for me,” said Matthias Walkner. “There is still one day more to go; it’s really crazy to think otherwise. A lot of things can still happen. Twenty minutes on the last day is the same as 20 minutes on the second or third day. We have 120 km left to go, so I’m going to stay focused on it and try my best.”

Dakar Rally stage 13 Laia Sanz
Red Bull KTM’s Laia Sanz is running an incredible 12th overall, and presses on to the finish despite some hard get-offs this week. Photography by Red Bull Content Pool

American Andrew Short is looking forward to bringing his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna across the finish line in Cordoba. Short took a modest 35th-place finish today and sits 17th overall. It’s been a rough go for the Dakar rookie, who finds himself amid the toughest Dakar Rally in recent memory, but is plugging away despite the fact that his “entire body hurts.”

“Today was tough… really tough,” said Short. “The stage was so long and at this point in the rally it was especially tiring. The beginning of the special was really soft and it was difficult to get a good rhythm going. The latter half was on much faster tracks and it was flat out for a lot of the way. I didn’t push too hard because a crash there would have been pretty extreme. I’m happy to get to the finish and now, with only one day left, I’m looking forward to completing my first Dakar Rally.”

American rookies Shane Esposito and Mark Samuels are also heading toward their first Dakar Rally finishes as they both completed the extremely long stage in strong form. Samuels took 15th overall in Dakar Rally stage 13 with Esposito not far off in 18th for the day.

Bill Conger is also chugging toward the checkered flag, finishing today in 68th place and sitting 66th overall of the 80 motorcycle riders who still remain in the field. A total of 139 riders started.

Overall Results Dakar Rally Stage 13:

  1. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 41:33:42
  2. Kevin Benavides (Hon) +22:31
  3. Toby Price (KTM) +27:45
  4. Antoine Meo (KTM) +50:17
  5. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) +1:01:19
  6. Johnny Aubert (Gas) +1:54:12
  7. Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +2:06:49
  8. Oriol Mena (Her) +2:23:29
  9. Daniel Oliveras Carreras (KTM) +2:39:33
  10. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Hon) +2:40:17

 

  1. Laia Sanz (KTM) +2:50:37

 

  1. Andrew Short (Hus) +4:04:40

 

  1. Mark Samuels (Hon) +6:05:03

 

  1. Shane Esposito (KTM) +7:31:50

 

  1. Bill Conger (KTM) +26:13:53

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.