Leaving the Saudi capital of Riyadh, competitors made their way west towards Al Dawadimi on stage seven, but first, they faced a challenging 402-kilometre timed special that comprised a mixture of seemingly endless dunes followed by more tricky-to-navigate canyons and riverbeds. Finding the mixed terrain very much to his liking, reigning Dakar Champion Kevin Benavides made the best use of his 13th place start position to work his way up through the field to complete the stage in second ultimately. The result gives the number one plate holder a considerable boost in the overall standings, moving him from eighth up to third, just over five minutes behind the leader.
Kevin Benavides: “I pushed today, and it feels good to have that hard work pay off with a strong result. Navigation was tricky, especially later on, and I did make a couple of mistakes that cost me some time, but I was able to fix them quickly and keep a good rhythm going to the finish. I’ll be up near the front tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Putting in a solid day seven performance from his eighth-place start position, Toby Price knew the special would throw up a few surprises and so focused on accurate navigation for the entirety of the stage. Completing the initial dune section as one of the fastest riders, Toby showed more caution as the terrain got technical in the latter half of the stage. Bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in ninth place, Price moves up one more business in the overall rankings to 11th with five steps left to contest.
Toby Price: “Not a bad stage for me today. There was one tricky bit of navigation in the middle, so I took my time through that section to make sure I got through ok. I’m here safe in one piece, so I can’t complain at all. On the whole, it’s been a perfect day today, so we’ll focus on tomorrow now and hopefully more of the same.”
Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening the technically demanding stage after catching and passing the one rider setting off ahead of him. At the beginning of the special, the Austrian maintained a good pace through the 100-kilometre dune section, keeping the chasing pack at bay. But when the terrain changed to the slower, rocky tracks later in the stage, a couple of minor errors resulted in several minutes lost for the KTM 450 RALLY rider. Despite finishing in 24th place, just over 10 minutes down on the stage winner, Matthias remains in second overall and will now enjoy an advantageous start position for Monday’s long 830-kilometre stage eight.
Matthias Walkner: “It was super tricky to navigate stage today. The rain that we had here last week has washed a lot of the pistes away, so it is not easy to know exactly where you are sometimes. One waypoint was especially hard to find, and I know I lost much time on that one alone. Other than that, the stage went well, I was opening for a lot of the first half until I got lost a little, and I’m happy with my pace. Stages like that are especially tiring. It takes a lot out of you, so I’m looking forward to getting some rest now and attacking again tomorrow.”
Completing another stage at his debut rally, Danilo Petrucci finished 30th, 27 minutes down on the day’s winner. Still a little hurt from his location six crash, Danilo continues to tick off each step with solid rides on his Tech3 KTM machine and now has his sights set firmly on the finish line in Jeddah on January 14.
Provisional Results Stage Seven (overall) – 2022 Dakar Rally
- 1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 3:28:46
- 2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:29:30 +0:44
- 3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:31:37 +2:51
- 4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 3:36:36 +7:50
- 5. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 3:37:15 +8:29
- Other KTM
- 9. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:39:23 +10:37
- 24. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:51:36 +22:50
- 30. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), KTM, 3:55:53 +27:07
Provisional Standings – 2022 Dakar Rally after 7 of 12 stages
- 1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 23:45:02
- 2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 23:50:14 +5:12
- 3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 23:50:25 +5:23
- 4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 23:50:40 +5:38
- 5. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 23:51:36 +6:34
- Other KTM
- 11. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 24:14:31 +29:29