Today was the first leg of the second marathon stage at this year’s Dakar Rally. The Super Fiambalá as it has come to be known was a 280km special through the Argentinian dunes with scorching temperatures reaching over 40 degrees. Similar to yesterday’s stage, navigation was massively important as was the ability to conserve machinery as no mechanical help could be provided at the bivouac.

Toby Price was one of those riders who lost their way on yesterday’s stage 10. Riding hard to make up time on today’s stage, Price led the special from start to finish. This dominant performance moves the Australian up to third in the provisional standings, albeit close to 40-minutes down on the leader, team-mate Matthias Walkner. 

Like Price, Antoine Meo was suffering from a late start position due to his result from stage 10. The Frenchman rode superbly all day battling for the runner-up spot right until the flag. A small mistake cost Meo a few minutes but the former Enduro World Champion was still able to claim third place and also improve his position in the provisional standings to fifth. Antoine Meo - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - Dakar Rally 2018Matthias Walkner opened the road for the bikes and with stage 11 being a mixed start, the Austrian had to contend with some of the leading cars on the tracks, too. Riding consistently and again concentrating on his navigation, Walkner rode to a strong fifth place – 11 minutes down on his team-mate and winner of the stage, Toby Price. Despite losing a little time today to his rivals, the former Cross-Country Rallies World Champion still holds a comfortable advantage at the top of the standings, 32-minutes ahead of second-placed Kevin Benavides. Matthias Walkner - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing - Dakar Rally 2018Matthias Walkner“Things went pretty well for me today. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to go wrong anywhere and lose all of the time that I gained yesterday. The stage was good, but my pace could have been a little better. I didn’t really want to end up making a mistake by pushing too hard though. I got stuck behind one of the cars later on in the stage and didn’t want to risk overtaking so that cost me a few seconds. Overall, I am feeling really good, my body is getting used to all the strain now. There are just three days to go, so I’ll keep focused and carry on.” Laia Sanz - KTM Factory Racing - Dakar Rally 2018Leading female competitor Laia Sanz had another good day astride her KTM 450 RALLY. The Spaniard, riding sensibly and concentrating on hitting each waypoint, maintained a good pace throughout the timed special to finish in a very solid 18th place. 

Stage 12 of the 2018 Dakar Rally, the second leg of the final marathon stage, will again test both rider and machine. Following a night in the bivouac with no team-assistance riders will leave Fiambalá and head for San Juan. Conserving both machine and energy will be extremely important on this 723km stage. A long 375km timed special will require good navigational and supreme physical endurance in the Argentinian heat. Winding its way through the dirt tracks and riverbeds of the San Juan region, the route could bring even more changes to the current running order. 

Two sides of the same coin in the Super-Fiambalá

Kevin Benavides keeps all options open in the 2018 Dakar after a gruelling stage in Fiambalá that saw Joan Barreda abandon the rally after one too many falls. Ricky Brabec and Nacho Cornejo also feature in the overall top ten.

Today’s rider starting order was dictated by the overall results of all vehicles yesterday, which mean a mixed start that featured several cars and trucks interspersed with the motorcycles on the track. This posed a serious disadvantage as riders were faced with heavily rutted tracks devastated by the passage of the larger four-wheeled counterparts. Yet the riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team were up to the challenge and battled against all odds to reduce the distance with the

The eleventh stage consisted of 485 kilometres in total between Belén and Fiambalá, with 280 km against the clock. The day’s special stage included an early stint in broken-up dry river-beds with some trial-style riding and various treacherous zones before the race arrived at the first stretches of sand and dunes and their correspondingly demanding navigation. With the dunes out of the way, it was back to a combination of fast, broken tracks before reaching the Fiambalá

Today Kevin Benavides, in spite of starting out behind the cars and trucks, was in gung-ho attack mode in an attempt to claw back some of the deficit from the overall leader in the general standings. By the end of the day, the rider from Salta had crossed the line in second place, eating some nine minute into the lead of Walkner, leaving the overall distance between the two in the provisional at 32 minutes.

A fine performance from Ricky Brabec, who finished fourth of the day and climbs to sixth place in the table. Likewise, Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo rode a solid first leg of the marathon stage to post tenth position on the day and ninth in the general

Joan Barreda abandons
Joan Barreda has retired from the 2018 Dakar whilst still holding second position. After having suffered several falls in some of the earlier stages of the rally and punishing his body severely, the exhausted Spaniard made the decision to completely withdraw. Joan had started the rally with a nagging injury to his left wrist, before falling heavily in the seventh stage, La Paz – Uyuni, where he sustained a damaged left knee. Despite the pain, Barreda soldiered on the following day to hold on to his top five place. Yesterday, on the route of the tenth stage from Salta – Belén stage, Barreda suffered concussion in the head. The rider, still determined to defend his overall second place in the general standings, was forced to call an end to his seventh campaign, which is living up to its name as the ‘World’s Toughest Rally’. Barreda goes home with three stage victories this time and a total of twenty-two in all his Dakar participations.

Today’s stage eleven was the first part of the rally’s second marathon stage (for the motorbikes) which means that there will be no mechanical assistance available from anyone other than the riders themselves. The rest of the teams have all moved on directly from Belén to Chilecito. The entourage will leave the small town tomorrow and head to San Juan to await the arrival of the riders who en route will have to overcome a total of 723 kilometres, including a reduced special stage of 288 kilometres and 426 kilometres of liaison section. Riders can look forward to stony track and areas of navigation.

Kevin Benavides 47

Stage: 2nd Overall: 2nd

“We changed the chip after yesterday and we went out to push hard. I started out from a long way behind and I found a lot of trucks that had broken up all the track. It was a good result and we have reduced some time from the overall leader. We will continue pushing hard until the end.”

Stage 11 Results

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 04:01’33
2 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +01’38
3 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +06’31
4 BRABEC Ricky 20 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +07’34
5 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +11’01

Provisional Standings after Stage 11

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 WALKNER Matthias 2 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 36:33’37
2 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +32’00
3 PRICE Toby 8 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +39’17
4 FARRES Gerard 3 SPA Himoinsa Team KTM +49’17
5 MEO Antoine 19 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +59’05