There is just 22 seconds at the head of the Dakar rally – and neither of the leaders are on KTM who have won the rally for the past 13 years. Yamaha’s Adrian Van Beveren leads from Honda’s Kevin Benavides who is about to reach his home town of Salta breathing down the neck of the overall race leader. Former world MX3 champ Matthias Walkner is third, more than six minutes back on his KTM. With today’s special stage cancelled due to bad weather, there are five more stages to complete before the end of the 2018 Dakar Rally.
Sticking to his well-calculated plan of attack, Van Beveren rode a smart stage eight of the rally. Assigned with the demanding task of opening the tracks on several occasions during the timed special, the Frenchman brought his Yamaha home in seventh position on Sunday. Meeting his team in Tupiza for the first time after two days, Adrien will now have the chance to regroup and get ready for the remainder of the rally.
He said:”It is great that we keep the lead at the end of this extremely difficult marathon stage. The rain, the mud and the high altitude made things really hard for us these last two days. It was really exhausting physically but I managed to get two good stage results.
“Yesterday I was second and then today I pushed hard and managed to stay close to the leading group. For big parts of the special stages yesterday and today I found myself opening the tracks. I am feeling great so far on my bike and I also have a great feeling with my navigation. I can be fast while also avoiding navigational mistakes and that is crucial for the coming stages as well. I feel that I’ve put the pieces of the puzzle.”
The Monster Energy Honda Team is still well in contention for the 2018 Dakar Rally. As the second leg of the marathon stage comes to a close, Kevin Benavides is a hair’s breath away from taking the overall leadership.
“It’s been a good day. I started third and within a few kilometres I found myself opening the track with Adrien [Van Beveren], so we practically rode together all day,” he said. “We were joined by Toby Price and Joan Barreda, who had gotten lost and found us. We finished in a pack. I was holding back a bit, knowing that I could not make much of a difference. I’m happy about that. Tomorrow we ride to Salta, my hometown; I really want to see my people, my family and recharge my batteries.”
Joan Barreda certainly deserves an honorary mention for his never-say-die attitude. Yesterday, in the marathon stage he took a bad fall, injuring his left knee yet still managing to finish the stage. When the race doctors failed to find anything broken, the Spaniard was given the all-clear to continue in the competition. Today Joan was forced to lead the field and battled hard against the pain to finish in eighth place, limiting the damage, and dropping 3’16’’ to the leader. Barreda now holds fifth overall position – a minute and a half away from a podium place in the Dakar.
Dakar Rally 2018 – Stage 8 – Provisional Classification
1. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 05:24:01
2. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 05:25:09, +01:08
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 05:26:46, +02:45
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 05:29:53, +05:52
5. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 05:30:47, +06:46
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 05:31:01, +07:00
7. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 05:32:45, +08:44
23. Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamaha, 05:51:34, +27:33
26. Rodney Faggotter (AUS), Yamaha, 05:55:38, +31:57
Dakar Rally 2018 – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 8]
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 27:22:03
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 27:22:25, +00:22
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 27:28:37, +06:34
4. Toby Price (AUT), KTM, 27:29:38, +07:35
5. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 27:30:04, +08:01
6. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 27:31:59, +09:56