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Although stage 13 was a long one for the riders, coming in at a total of 675 kilometers, the distance raced against the clock was relatively short at 154 kilometers. The special was again made up predominantly of the rolling dunes of the Empty Quarter, and although navigation wasn’t too challenging, reading the terrain and maintaining a good pace was hugely important in order to secure a good result.
Kevin Benavides endured a tough stint in the desert today. Setting off fifth, the 2021 Dakar winner knew the penultimate stage of the event would offer the best chance to make up ground on teammate, rival, and overall rally leader Toby Price. However, at around 55 kilometers into the special, Kevin reached Matthias Walkner who had crashed. Staying with his fellow Red Bull KTM racer until the medical team arrived cost Benavides around 23 minutes. After rejoining the race Kevin pushed hard for the finish, making up good time in the process. After having the lost minutes returned to him, Benavides topped the stage by a tight 27 seconds – enough to provisionally move him up into second in the overall standings.
Kevin Benavides: “It’s always a difficult day when you see someone has had a crash, and it’s worse when it’s your teammate. I stayed with Matthias until help arrived and although he was in some pain, he then told me to carry on. I pushed hard for the rest of the stage, but it’s tricky to focus after seeing something like that. To win the stage is amazing, and to be second overall and so close to Toby is even more of a surprise. With one day left all I can do is try my best and the results will be decided at the finish line.”
Delivering an excellent ride to fifth place on stage 13, despite a small crash and a navigational error, Toby Price retained his lead in the overall standings. But with Benavides now moving into second, a mere 12 seconds behind, the race to the finish line in Dammam on Sunday’s final stage will be intense. As per the Dakar Rally rules, riders will set off in reverse order to the general standings, meaning Kevin will be second-to-last away, followed by Toby.
Toby Price: “It’s been a hectic day out there today. I caught the guys in front at about kilometer 90 and thought to myself, if I want to win this race, I have to be out front and capture that bonus a little bit. I had a small crash where I was focused on the top of one dune, lost the front, and fell over. Then around kilometer 130 we just went slightly too far right and lost a little time getting back on course. I really pushed hard all day, with the goal to still be in the lead going into the final day. I managed to do that, so I’m pleased, but it’s still incredibly tight at the top. Tomorrow really is going to be a race to the finish line, but I’ll give it all I have and see where we end up.”
Showing fantastic speed on the dunes of the Empty Quarter over the last few days, Matthias Walkner came into stage 13 eager to impress once again. Unfortunately, a crash at the kilometer 55 mark brought an end to his stage and his rally. The Austrian suffered trauma to his lower back and has been airlifted to hospital in Dammam for further checks.
Sunday’s stage 14 – the final of this year’s event – will see riders leave the bivouac in Al Hofuf and head north to Dammam. The timed special will be a relatively short sprint up the coast to the finish line, where the 2023 Dakar Rally Champion will be crowned.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 13
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 2:21:47 2. Michael Docherty (ZAF), Husqvarna, 2:22:14 +0:27 3. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 2:22:44 +0:57 4. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 2:23:52 +2:05 5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:24:15 +2:28
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 13 of 14 stages)
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 43:11:51 2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 43:12:03 +0:12 3. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 43:13:22 +1:31 4. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 43:27:42 +15:51 5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Honda, 43:27:50 +15:59