Stage 10 of the 2018 Dakar Rally was the kind of crazy-ass day that only seems to elevate the event’s prestige in the eyes of rally fans.
And the kind of day that may just make Dakar Rally competitors curse the day they ever signed up for it in the first place.
With the cancellation of Stage 9 due to weather-related issues with the route, the 2018 Dakar Rally resumed with Stage 10 from Salta to Belén in Argentina. A stark contrast to the rainy conditions that pervaded in the Bolivian stages, Tuesday’s stage presented the riders with challenging navigation in extremely hot, dry and dusty terrain. The route would prove to trip up many of the top competitors, who effectively saw their chances at the 2018 Dakar Rally win go right into the proverbial toilet.
Among those who got lost, and thus lost a massive amount of time, were Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides, Joan Barreda and Ricky Brabec, Red Bull KTM teammates Toby Price and Antoine Meo, and Slovnaft Racing’s Stefan Svitko. The disappointment may have been especially brutal for Benavides, who Having led for the first 242 kilometres of the timed special, only to follow the wrong river bed on the last part of stage run on the clock. The Argentinean now trails the new overall leader by 41 minutes.
Price, who won the 2016 Dakar Rally, pretty much summed up the feelings of the lost when he said, “It’s one of those days you want to forget. A bit tough, but that’s the way it is. I’ve just got to try and see what the rest of the week will bring now. It was a bit of a hot one, and I didn’t have much fluid, so I’m a bit drained and dehydrated. The notes all seemed to say 150 kilometers and the rio we got into started at 150 kilometers. We thought we’d got it right, but obviously not. I don’t know… the road-book is a bit average at the moment, but that’s the way it is. For us, it’s pretty much done. We’ll just keep plugging away each day and see what happens. You never know, but it’s not looking too good… That’s the way it is”.
If you were Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally’s Adrien Van Beveren or Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner, however, you were looking fantastic, but even that would change for one of them, the man known as AVB. Van Beveren seemed to be doing everything he needed to do to put himself into an almost insurmountable lead when, just three kilometers from the finish of the timed special, he crashed at high speed and sustained serious injuries, including a broken collarbone and a possible spinal injury. AVB was airlifted to Belén for further evaluation. After winning two stages and leading much of the event, his 2018 Dakar Rally came to an unfortunate end.
“Today we went from absolute joy to an incredible low,” Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Director Alexandre Kowalski said. “Adrien was perfectly following the plan that we have set together with our sports manager Jordi Arcarons, and he was having a great stage. He lost some time in the morning but kept improving as the race went on. He was among the first riders to find the right track in the river where most of the leaders got lost, and together with the eventual stage winner Walkner they were 49 minutes ahead of the rest of the pack. The crash took place less than five kilometers before the finish. This has been an epic journey for Adrien so far, and we were all behind him in his efforts. We had a dream race so far, and the spirit within the team was great. Unfortunately, the Dakar is such a tough event that all can change in just a few seconds. Following the first medical checks at the hospital, it seems that Adrien has suffered a broken collarbone. He will remain under close supervision, and tomorrow we will have more solid info.”
With that, Walkner rode to the Stage 10 victory and effectively fell into a massive overall lead that sees him 39 minutes and 42 seconds ahead of his closest competitor.
“It was a really tough and long stage,” Walkner said. “After the first part, when I saw Kevin [Benavides] was six minutes in front, I said ‘Okay we can’t go as fast all stage with this tricky navigation.’ So I stayed at my pace, and it did not work so bad. It was really at the limit because it’s so hard to follow the course and all these small rios, but in the end it was a really good day for me I think. When we spoke about the rankings yesterday, I was almost out of it. But this is the Dakar, and every day it can change a lot. I tried to stay at my rhythm. If I’m in front, I don’t like that it changes often, but if I’m further back it’s funnier, but that’s the Dakar… Of course I think I can win, but there are six or seven other riders who can win it and there is still a long way to go. We’ve seen how quick it can change.”
That next closest competitor to Walkner is Monster Energy Honda’s Barreda, who finished 14th today, 38 minutes and 15 seconds behind the Austrian today. The closest man in the stage result was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, who navigated well to the end of the stage, finishing just 11 minutes and 35 seconds behind Walkner, although the Chilean suffered his share of misfortune in Stage 8 and currently sits ninth overall, just over 90 minutes off Walkner’s lead time.
Americans Andrew Short and Mark Samuels took full advantage of the misfortunes of their competition, netting sixth and seventh respectively—by far the best stage finish for each man in the 2018 Dakar Rally.
Of course, the 2018 Dakar Rally is far from over, and while Walkner appears to have a massive lead, anything can happen. Tomorrow’s Stage 11 is the second marathon stage for motorcycles The day will start in Bethlehem and head to Fiambalá. Riders once again will not be allowed any outside mechanical assistance once their bikes arrive at the parc fermé. The stage will consist of 280 kilometers of timed special and a total of 485 kilometers of liaison section.
2018 Dakar Rally
Salta, Argentina, to Belén, Argentina
Results: January 16, 2018 (Stage 10 of 14)
1. Mathias Walkner (AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / 4 hours, 52 minutes and 26 seconds
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +00:11:35
3. Gerard Farres (SPA)-Himoinsa Team / +00:16:21
4. Oriol Mena (SPA)-Hero Motorsports Team Rally /+00:20:45
5. José Ignacio Cornejo (CHI)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:23:14
6. Andrew Short (USA)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +00:24:13
7. Mark Samuels (USA)- OX Motorsports / +00:24:50
8. Daniel Oliveras (SPA)- Himoinsa Team / +00:25:25
9. Armand Monleon (SPA )-Daming Racing Team / +00:34:18
10. Joan Pedrero (SPA)-Sherco TVS Rally Factory / +00:36:24
2018 Dakar Rally Overall Standings (after 10 of 14 stages)
1. Matthias Walkner :AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / 32 hours, 21 minutes and 3 seconds
2. Joan Barreda :SPA) -Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:39:42
3. Kevin Benavides :ARG)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:41:23
4. Gerard Farres Gerard :SPA)-Himoinsa Team / +00:47:46
5. Toby Price Toby :AUS) -Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:50:18
6. Antoine Meo :FRA) -Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +01:03:35
7. Ricky Brabec :USA) -Monster Energy Honda Team / +01:21:37
8. Stefan Svitko :SLO) -Slovnaft Team / +01:25:09
9. Pablo Quintanilla :CHI) -Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +01:30:24
10. Johnny Aubert :FRA) -Gas Gas Racing / +01:40:57