Benavides was the main benefactor of yesterday’s stage, despite initially losing 23 minutes when he was chasing crashed KTM team-mate Matthias Walkner. The Austrian driver crashed out of the rally and was taken to the hospital for a back examination. Benavides requested that the lost time be taken into account, which the race officials granted and his race time was adjusted, keeping him in the overall mix.
Kevin Benavides is 12 seconds off the rally lead as he chases down KTM teammate Toby Price. Photo: Florent Gooden/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
The Argentinian would finish the stage as the fastest of the day with an allowance, finishing 2’28” ahead of his Australian teammate, who was fifth on the course. With the added benefit of time bonuses, Price still maintains his lead, but the margin for error is very small.
America’s assault on the 2023 Dakar is now down to one rider for all-out glory, Utah’s Skyler Howes. The Husqvarna factory rider heads into the final stage 91 seconds behind third-placed Toby Price, but after struggling during yesterday’s penultimate stage, has his luck run out?
A few small mistakes cost Skyler Howes time on stage 13, but did it cost him the rally win? Photo: Gigi Soldano/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
Howes made a number of mistakes which saw him lose just over a minute to Price in the general classification, and this was compounded when the returning Benavides took second overall at the end of the stage. Although he remains 1’31” off the overall lead, the man who led the rally for five days has work to do.
And to add to the American attack’s woes, Mason Klein’s debut charge in the premier class came to a sad end when he retired before the start of Stage 13. After winning the Rally2 class on debut last year, the 21-year-old made a strong early start of this year’s rally before falling back to tenth place overall. He collapsed awkwardly on stage 12 and after the stage they took x-rays of his neck because they thought he had done damage.
Mason Klein had an awkward crash on stage 12, retiring from the rally before the start of stage 13. Photo: Eric Vargiolu/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
Despite being given the all-clear by competition doctors, the BAS World KTM rider played it safe and decided to retire. While it’s sad that he won’t finish, the Californian’s immediate impact at the start of the rally won’t be quickly forgotten.
On stage 11, Sebastian Loeb made it four stages in a row to tie with Carlos Sainz, Ari Vatanen and Jacky Ickx. Then on the 12th stage he achieved five consecutive feats which Vatanen had not done since 1989. Overnight, the Frenchman went on to create new Dakar history in his Prodrive BRX Hunter by taking his sixth stage win in a row.
Sebastien Loeb won his sixth stage of the Dakar Rally in a row and the seventh rally of the year. Photo: EPA/Andrew Eaton Credit: Andrew Eaton/EPA
Such is the talent of the nine-time world rally champion, it is an achievement never before achieved in the car component of this rally. Loeb has won a total of seven stages for this year’s rally and is on track to win eight if he wins the final stage.
It will fail on two fronts; he will be two stage wins short of tying the all-time record set by his compatriot Pierre Lartigue in 1994. In addition, overall victory will continue to elude him, as he is still 81 minutes behind Nasser Al-Attiyah. Loeb’s chances faded early in the rally, after a triple puncture on the second stage followed by a rollover during the fifth. He lost a total of 90 minutes for both incidents.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah is almost certain to win his fifth Dakar for Toyota. Photo: EPA/Andrew Eaton Credit: Andrew Eaton/EPA
The Qatar-born Toyota Gazoo driver has almost wrapped up his fifth Dakar title with one stage to go and only needs to reach the end of the final stage to confirm victory, becoming the second most successful driver in the rally’s history and surpassing Vatanen’s four victories.
Three days ago, Molly Taylor and Andrew Short were more than two hours away from finishing in the top ten overall in the T4 Modified Production SSV class. Now, with one stage remaining, the pair are just 9’30” away from finishing in the top ten.
Molly Taylor and Andrew Short are currently 12th overall in T4 and are eyeing a top ten finish. Photo: Florent Gooden/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
The Australian-American partnership has worked very well over the past few days and yesterday’s tenth place result on the stage helped them regain nearly 24 minutes. In the general ranking, they are currently 12th overall in T4.
With Molly Taylor and Andrew Short fighting for tenth place in T4, the outright battle for the class win remains very close, with Rokas Baciuska and Eryk Goczal set to win the final stage.
Eryk Goczal contributed to his family’s seven stage victories in this year’s competition. Photo: Florent Gooden/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
Goczal, from Poland, is looking to continue his family’s winning ways in this class with another stage win and close the gap of 3’24” to the Lithuanian rider. Between him, his father Marek and his uncle Michal, they won seven of the 13 completed stages in this year’s rally.
Rokas Baciuska overcame a 15-minute penalty at the start of this year’s rally to become the current leader in the T4 class with one lap remaining. Photo: Florent Gooden/DPPI/LiveMedia Credit: IPA/Sippa USA
Baciuska only won three stages like Prolog, but was much quicker with his raw pace, making up for a 15 minute penalty from the first stage of the rally to stay in contention for the win.
Watch highlights of the penultimate stage tonight from 5pm AEDT on SBS and anytime on SBS On Demand.