Dakar Rally Stage 8 Report: Strong Day For Americans, Stage 9 Canceled

Jean Turner | January 14, 2018

Dakar Rally Stage 8 Report: The first marathon stage of the Dakar Rally has concluded, and at the close of Dakar Rally stage 8, the racing remains incredibly tight in the motorcycle division, with a mere 22 seconds separating lead Yamaha and Honda riders Adrien Van Beveren and Kevin Benavides, respectively. Van Beveren has managed to retain his lead for another day, despite carrying the burden of opening the complicated track through the Bolivian mountains. The Yamalube Yamaha Official rider finished seventh on the day (+8:44), with Red Bull KTM’s Antoine Meo topping the chart for Dakar Rally stage 8.

Dakar Rally stage 8 Van Beveren Benavides
The tight battle between Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren (4) and Honda’s Kevin Benavides carries on through Dakar Rally stage 8. After eight days of racing, a mere 22 seconds separates the duo. (Is anyone else drooling over that incredible wet-desert traction?) Photography by Dakar.com

“These mountains require laser-like focus and take their toll,” said Adrien Van Beveren. “We pushed really hard with Benavides, Price and Barreda in the final 150 km. The fight has begun. I spent lots of time navigating at the front, but I like it even thought it’s more taxing. I’m happy with the way things are going.”

Kevin Benavides agrees with Van Beveren’s sentiment, and also added “it’s going to be a big fight for the win. Adrien and I have a great relationship. We’re rivals on the track and good friends off of it. I took time on him today and moved very close. It’s quite fun.”

Antoine Meo captured the win by pushing hard late in the stage to overtake Ricky Brabec. The American was on his way to his first stage win of the race before Meo’s last-minute surge. Brabec took second place only 1:08 behind Meo with Toby Price another 1:37 back in third for the day. Brabec’s runner-up result vaulted him back inside the top 10, where he is now a solid eighth, only three seconds behind Stefan Svitko in seventh overall.

Dakar Rally stage 8 Ricky Brabec
Ricky Brabec led the charge on Dakar Rally stage 8 but was bested by Antoine Meo late in the special, leaving Brabec second in the stage, his best finish yet in the 2018 Dakar Rally. Photography by Dakar.com

Meo’s winning ride elevates him to sixth in the overall standing, and more importantly, has slashed his deficit to the overall lead by half. He is now less than 10 minutes behind Van Beveren.

“I went flat-out from the start,” Meo said. “I wanted to gain six or seven minutes on the leaders, and I’m happy with what I did today because I pushed to the limit. I stopped for two minutes to help Quintanilla, whose chain had come off. I fell at km 400, but both my bike and I are fine.”

Monster Energy Honda rider Joan Barreda pressed on despite his knee injury from the day before. The Spaniard managed a top-10 finish, but not near the blistering pace he’s been setting. He finished eighth in Dakar Rally stage 8, exactly 12 minutes off the lead pace. He is still in the top-five overall, sitting fifth (+8:01) behind Toby Price in fourth (+7:35).

Dakar Rally Stage 9 Canceled

With a race so close—the top six within 10 minutes of each other—every mile counts, but weather extremes have taken a toll on the competition. Summer storms and local flooding have caused rivers to swell, and led to the cancelation of tomorrow’s stage, which was slated to take riders from Bolivia across the border into northwester Argentina. Riders now have another rest day tomorrow, and will commence racing from Salta, Argentina on Tuesday for stage 10.

The impromptu rest day tomorrow likely plays to the advantage of Barreda, who can now take an extra day to rest his injured knee.

American rider Andrew Short had a good day today, finishing 17th in the stage, (+22:28) in his strongest performance yet. His Rockstar Energy Husqvarna teammate, however, did not have a good day. Pablo Quintanilla dropped back to 12th place after finishing a distant 40th today, over an hour behind the lead pack. The subpar finish is devastating to the reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion, who is all but out of podium contention.

American rookies Mark Samuels and Shane Esposito both had strong days as well, with Samuels finishing 21st and Esposito finishing an incredible 15th on the day, only 20 minutes off the lead pace.

Overall Results after Dakar Rally stage 8:

  1. Adrien Van Beveren (Yam) 27:22:03
  2. Kevin Benavides (Hon) +0:22
  3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) +6:34
  4. Toby Price (KTM) +7:35
  5. Joan Barreda (Hon) +4:45
  6. Antoine Meo (KTM) +9:56
  7. Stefan Svitko (KTM) +31:55
  8. Ricky Brabec (Hon) +31:58
  9. Gerard Farres Guell (Yam) +45:52
  10. Johnny Aubert (Gas) +1:10:02

 

  1. Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +1:25:23
  2. Laia Sanz (KTM) +1:31:25

 

  1. Andrew Short (Hus) +2:23:31

 

  1. Mark Samuels (Hon) +5:01:46

 

  1. Shane Esposito (KTM) +5:20:25

 

  1. Bill Conger (KTM) +17:22:27

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.