Slovnaft KTM’s Stefan Svitko has shown dogged determination in the 2016 Dakar Rally, and it paid off today with his first career stage win.
Slovnaft KTM rider Stefan Svitko has doggedly held his position near the front of the Dakar Rally motorcycle class since the start of the event, and today the Slovakian rider was rewarded for his tenacity with his first career stage victory, in Stage 10 from Belen to La Rioja in Argentina.
The 33-year-old Svitko, who is contesting the Dakar for the seventh time in his career, battled with Honda South America’s Kevin Benavides in the technically demanding stage, which featured the longest Dune section of the rally as well as hosting a unique start in which the 10 fastest motorcycles started together. The stage was also cut 30 kilometers so that the competitors would not have to deal with one rain-swollen river. In the end, Svitko was able to pull clear of Benavides and claim the stage win with a time of 3 hours, 47 minutes and 23 seconds.
However, Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price is looking surer every day to be the eventual winner of the rally. The Australian finished third today, losing only 5 minuted and 47 seconds of his overall lead to Svitko. Price now holds a lead of 23-minute, 12-second advantage over Svitko, and he no longer faces a threat from Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves, as the Honda man had to accept a heavy time penalty in today’s stage, a whopping 39 minutes and 56 seconds. The added time has effectively knocked Goncalves out of a chance for a podium spot unless several riders in front of him begin to fall by the wayside—a relatively unusual occurrence as the rally enters its last few stages.
Also noteworthy is that Goncalves’ teammate, Ricky Brabec, was ultimately elevated from fifth place to second place, ahead of Svitko, Pablo Quintanilla and Benavides in yesterday’s Stage 9. Today, in Stage 10, Goncalves finished fourth and Brabec eighth. Brabec is now seventh overall.
“Today, here at the second and final marathon, I knew it was going to be difficult, so I sat back and took my time, just played it smart and safe, because I knew that the dunes would get me,” Brabec said. “I’m happy to be at the finish line, and I’m ready to go for the next three days. I’m also happy that Paulo got back and running. I know that we can end up on top. So, I’m glad that Paulo is out there and that I’m here, and we are all safe and ready to go.”
With Goncalves so far back, Price continues to look like the odds-on favorite for the overall win.
“It was a key stage,” Price said. “I took it easy because my motorcycle struggled in the heat yesterday. I also focused on navigating. Two chaps came from behind and caught up with me, but I can’t complain, it was a good stage. I can ride a bit more defensively now, no need to attack to gain time like I did yesterday. I’ve got some margin, but no guarantee. Anything can happen, I’ve got to continue working. I must avoid any mistakes or missing waypoints. What’s important is to be in good shape and ready to kick it up a notch if necessary.”
Benavides came home second today, just 2 minutes and 54 seconds off Svitko’s time.
“It was a good stage,” Benavides said. “I fell, but it was nothing serious. The course was difficult. There was lots of navigation to do. Lots of rivers swollen by the rain and quite a lot of mud, which is unusual here. The dunes were wet and loose. At the end of the day, I’m happy with the stage. The end is near. I’ve got to keep it up and stay consistent and focused, without pressure.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla had a rough day, suffering wheel damage that prevented him from making up any time on Price or Svitko in the overall standings. The Chilean had to be content with a sixth-place finish, behind Goncalves and Red Bull KTM’s Antoine Meo.
“It was a bad day,” Quintanilla said. “I tried to claw back some time, but when I reached the refueling zone my rear wheel was damaged. I mended it as best as I could. I was left unable to attack. I tried to stay calm and eased up the pace. I’m lucky to finish the stage. It was an awful day. I lost time, that’s for sure, but there are still a few specials left. We’ll keep on fighting till the end.”
2016 Dakar Rally
Belen to La Rioja, Argentina
Results: January 13, 2016 (stage 10 of 13)
1. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/3 hours, 47 minutes, 23 seconds
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:02:54
3. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/+00:05:47
4. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+00:06:01
5. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:07:43
6. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:09:55
7. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-Yam/+00:12:01
8. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Hon/+00:13:47
9. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yam/+00:18:01
10. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+00:26:46
2016 Dakar Rally Standings (after 10 of 13 stages)
1. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/34 hours, 49 minutes, 04 seconds
2. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:23:12 (1-minute time penalty)
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:42:49
4. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:44:04
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:45:10
6. Helder Rodrigues (ORT)-Yam/+00:56:17 (2-minute time penalty)
7. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Hon/+01:12:08
8. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+01:14:45 (39-minute, 56-second time penalty)
9. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+01:15:09
10. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yam/+01:21:55