Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price has posted the third-fastest time on a shortened stage six of the 2023 Dakar Rally.
Teammate Kevin Benavides was hot on Price’s heels, finishing fifth, just 21 seconds behind. Matthias Walkner secured another top-10 stage result as he continues to adjust to riding with an injured wrist sustained on stage two.
With the proposed bivouac at Al Duwadimi still underwater due to the heavy rains affecting the region, organizers rerouted the Dakar caravan to Riyadh.
As such, although the timed special was shortened to 358 kilometres, riders still faced an exhausting total distance of 768 kilometres today due to the long liaisons. Today’s special comprised another day of dunes and sandy tracks made all the more unpredictable due to the overnight rain.
Following his third-place finish on stage five, Toby Price set about chasing down the two riders ahead of him right from the start of today’s special.
With the times among the front runners proving to be incredibly close this morning as they navigated their way through the damp dunes of the stage, Price lost a few positions as he focused on his navigation near the front.
After the refuelling, however, the Australian pushed on and moved back up the leaderboard to complete the stage in third place.
Toby Price: “That’s another day ticked off – it has certainly been a long one! I had that crash yesterday, so I’ve been sore on my back and took it a touch easier today. But all in all, everything is going well so far.
We’ve got the marathon stage tomorrow, so that is always a big test to look after yourself and the bike. Hopefully, it’s not as cold as it has been over the last few days, but we’ll do our best, get through it as always, and keep having fun.”
The day started differently for Kevin Benavides. Third-quickest through the first 100 kilometres, the 2021 Dakar champion dropped a little time following a minor mistake midway through the special.
Regrouping, Kevin clawed some of that time back to complete the demanding special in fifth place. Benavides’ consistency is paying off. Finishing at least eighth so far at the 2023 event has resulted in the Argentine lying in a solid third overall in the provisional standings.
Kevin Benavides: “Another long day and another day of trying my best out there. The level is so high right now that you can barely afford to lose time or ease off on any of the stages. The times are so close, but we’re still early in the race, and there is a long way to go.
I’ll try and keep up this pace and stay consistent, and hopefully, nearer the end, I’ll still be well in the fight for the top places.”
Thankfully regaining his strength each day following the crash that injured his wrist on stage two, Matthias Walkner continues to put in solid rides to stay in contention.
Delivering another top-10 result on today’s special, the Austrian star minimized the time lost to the leaders and currently lies just outside the top 10 overall in 11th.
Matthias Walkner: “My wrist is getting better and better, which is a massive relief. But the pace is so fast right now that I am giving my all every day, and it’s a real challenge. The Dakar is so unpredictable, and we know anything can happen.
You have to be prepared as best as possible when those things happen. We’re heading into the marathon stage tomorrow, which is always a big test of the rider and their bikes, so I’ll try my best as always and hopefully, we won’t have any problems.”
Tomorrow’s stage seven marks the first half of the event’s marathon stage. Following a two-hour window where the service teams can work on their riders’ machines, the competitors head to the bivouac at Al Duwadimi while the teams return to Riyadh. Of the total distance of 713 kilometres, 398 will be raced against the clock.
Provisional Results – 2023 Dakar Rally, Stage 6
1. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 3:14:19
2. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 3:15:15 +0:56
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:16:39 +2:20
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:16:48 +2:29
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:17:11 +2:52
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:18:27 +4:08
Provisional Standings – 2023 Dakar Rally (after 6 of 14 stages)
1. Skyler Howes (USA), Husqvarna, 26:31:52
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 26:35:23 +3:31
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 26:38:53 +7:01
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 26:42:49 +10:57
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Honda, 26:44:12 +12:20
7. Mason Klein (USA), KTM, 26:44:38 +12:46
11. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 27:01:53 +30:01